The Thursday letters page is grateful for indie games filling the gaps between major releases, as one reader enjoys Steelrising despite its flaws.
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So we’re finally limping towards the release of God Of War Ragnarök, after a summer games drought that seems to have lasted forever. I feel like I can blow the dust off my PlayStation 5 and hope that 2022 was just a brief lull in what has so far been a great run for the console.
I don’t mean this is in a fanboy ‘all the other consoles suck’ kind of a way, I just think that the PlayStation 5 has had a very good first couple of years and if it wasn’t for the pandemic starting to bite this year would probably have been even better.
I’d go further and say that no other console, or at least not one in the 3D era, has had such a good first two years. Seriously. It had a good launch, and then a stream of really good games at least every two or three months, right up to the slowdown around April this year.
The only rival I can think of is the Switch but while its first year was great – better than the PlayStation 5 – its second year was pretty poor, and it’s only got worse since then. I don’t know if this will make the PlayStation 5 the best console ever or anything, but I think it already is in terms of other hardware at the same point in their life.
Considering some of the rubbish Embracer has already committed to I’m pretty sure there will be another Saints Row. It might be another reboot but I don’t think they’ll give up on what used to be quite a big franchise. I am surprised find the CEO guy say that it didn’t make much money though, with the implication that it cost a lot of money to make, because my lasting impression of that was that it was incredibly cheap.
From the bad graphics to the non-name songs on the radio the whole thing looked like a BBC production compared to the big budget Hollywood equivalent that is GTA. Like GC’s review said, if it was trying to do something different it wouldn’t matter but it’s not.
Maybe that’s the lesson they’ll learn if they do another one but given how obvious a mistake that was to make, I’m not so sure.
I’m coming round to the idea that the Switch 2 is getting pretty close to be announced, probably some time next year or early 2024. I could even go along with the fan theory that Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom is intended to be the bookend for the current Switch.
Someone mentioned that the Switch is still selling well, which is true, but it is selling less than it used, if only by a relatively small amount. That is always the signal that a publisher looks for, in terms of pushing their next console. I’d now be surprised if the Switch 2 isn’t out by at least Christmas 2024.
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Can I just say how much I’m enjoying Steelrising? It didn’t get amazing reviews but I had nothing else to play and I love Soulslikes so I took a chance on it and I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s not nearly as polished as From game and the level design isn’t nearly as good but I’ve still enjoyed it plenty.
A big part of it is the strange setting and art design, which I think goes a long way towards getting you (or at least me!) invested in a game, despite other failings it might have. If this had just been generic fantasy or whatever it would’ve never held my attention but weird French steampunk? That I can forgive quite a bit for.
Some people say story is important to them for a game but for me it’s not the plot it’s just the ambience and feel of a game that’s important, not exactly what’s going on.
King of Pac-Man
The ‘King of Kong’ and controversial American arcade record holder Billy Mitchell was at Elephant and Castle last Friday evening, where he validated one of his contested records, achieving a perfect score in Pac-Man after 7.5 hours of play without losing a life!
Hoping for more
I hadn’t played the first two but after all the positive reviews I took a chance on Splatoon 3 and… it’s fine? I really like the controls and the basic concept but the game seems so bear bones I keep thinking there’s something else I have to unlock.
Reading that the other ones were even more lacking in content I’m surprised the series ever got this far. Although that does explain why it’s never been that big in the West. Why Japan likes it so much I don’t know, but maybe they just don’t like serious/violent shooters, which is fair enough?
The fact that you have to play for so long to unlock anything other than one mode is crazy to me, especially as by the time you get to the others everyone is really good and I at least suddenly start struggling. Salmon Run is really good, but again it’s really limited. There’s not much variation and even though there are different maps they still look the same.
I’ll wait to see what the DLC is like but this feels like a rough sketch game and someone keeps forgetting to colour it in.
Maybe it’s different in China but I really don’t think we’re in a position where portable cloud streaming consoles make much sense yet. At home, sure my broadband is pretty stable, but out and about? Not a chance. I can play my Switch on a boat, at the top of a mountain, or on the beach (and I have!) but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get good enough Wi-Fi to do that with this Logitech/Tencent device.
Also… could they not at least try to do something different from the Switch. It looks even more like a knock-off brand than the Steam Deck.
Indie to the rescue
Indie gaming makes up the bulk of my gaming diet these days. The shorter run times and more experimental and creative directions are big factors. The quality bar is really high these days too.
All three console makers have embraced indie games with fervour at some stage. Nintendo and Sony too flesh out their early release schedules and now it’s Microsoft’s turn to fill out Game Pass.
It’s resulted in an impressive line-up of day one indie games for well over a year now and has also meant Xbox has seen many quality indie timed exclusives like Tunic, Death’s Door, Unpacking, and Rogue Legacy 2. The announcement of Hollow Knight: Silksong being a day one Game Pass release sums up for me how good indie gaming is on Xbox right now. This month alone Game Pass has Metal: Hellsinger, Tinykins, Immortality, Beacon Pines, and Moonscars.
There was an Inbox letter last week saying it must be a miserable time for Xbox owners due to a barren release schedule. On the first party front it was 100% accurate but the only reason I can come up with as to why Microsoft aren’t getting the level of criticism Sony or Nintendo would if they had such a barren first party year is because Microsoft are keeping its punters very happy with Game Pass for now.
My Xbox Series X hasn’t been off all year and it’s been a rich and fun year of gaming on it. My Xbox Series X gets far more use than my PlayStation 5, which is now a Sony exclusive box.
Microsoft do clearly have to sort out their first party output though. With the mess that is Halo Infinite there’s still a big question mark if they will ever get to Sony and Nintendo levels of consistent quality first party output, never mind the question of if they can match those two at their very best.
As much as I rate Microsoft’s offering right now I’m not sure they have a God Of War or Zelda: Breath Of The Wild in them. They’ve bought some very talented studios though, so a consistent high quality bar should be the goal and Starfield, Redfall, and Forza Motorsport all look very promising.
Is GTA a disappointment already? No. Absolutely not. I cannot fathom anyone being disappointed by what they have seen in the leak. It’s like judging a Marvel film based on behind the scenes shots of the green screen.
GC: That happens all the time, often based on just a couple of paparazzi style photos. People can be strange.
I’ve had my issues with FIFA over the years, but I have to give credit where it’s due and I like that EA are putting full effort into this year’s game, even though it’s their last one and you could’ve imagined them making it bad on purpose to ruin the name’s reputation on the way out – since FIFA will be reusing it for their games.
This week’s Hot Topic
After last weekend’s Inbox about favourite fantasy video games this week’s asks the related question: what’s your favourite sci-fi game?
It can be a licensed game if you want but try to also include a game that started in video games. How big a fan of science fiction are you in general, and how much of a distinction do you make between relatively grounded settings and space fantasy?
Do you feel there are too many or too few sci-fi games at the moment and what kind of games would you like to see more of, including specific genres like space combat simulators and sci-fi horror?
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