Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 07/06/19

June 7, 2019

A regular look at gaming-related stories from the past week or so whereby conclusions are drawn from anything and everything. These may be incredibly well reasoned based on events from the week. Alternatively, they may be highly speculative, drawn from very little evidence. More likely, they will be somewhere in between.

Conclusion One: We’ll soon be gathering our party and venturing forth again

It’s been almost two decades since Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn was released. It remains one of the greatest CRPGs ever made, so the fact that a sequel hasn’t been released since 2000 is simply staggering. There were mutterings of course, not least following the success of the enhanced editions of the first two games and both Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment. But nothing was ever solidified and the Forgotten Realms-based D&D series looked like it was going to be shelved forever.

Then something fantastic happened: Larian Studios made CRPGs popular again. Their Divinity series reignited interest in a genre which had largely been ignored, thanks in part to superb combat and a story system which let you tackle challenges in numerous ways — upon release, Divinity: Original Sin was as close as the genre got to emulating a true D&D experience. Other studios followed suit. The Kickstarted Pillars of Eternity became a huge success, even if it did feel like a Baldur’s Gate nostalgia trip rather than having its own identity (something the sequel rectified), and suddenly party-based isometric RPGs were in vogue once more.

Fast forward to this week, and Larian Studios announced in an interview with US Gamer that it has been developing Baldur’s Gate 3, and released a shiny new cinematic trailer to accompany it. This is simply fantastic news, not least because the developer is considered a safe pair of hands thanks to its ability to mesh intricate plots and interesting combat (the latter being something that the original Pillars suffered with). Better still, Larian started building the framework for the sequel in 2017 alongside Original Sin II which means that when the game eventually comes out, it won’t look immediately dated in comparison.

So what can we expect from our third foray? The studio is being tight-lipped on most aspects, but what we do know is that environmental combat will be included (so expect lots of combinations of fire, oil, ice, electricity, and more), while the story revolves around the resurgence of Mindflayers — the squid-headed enemies who resemble Doctor Who’s Ood. There will be new versions of well-known locales from the previous games, but otherwise the game will start completely afresh.

Does that mean Minsc and Boo will not make an appearance? We can’t see Larian dropping the iconic ranger and his miniature giant space hamster entirely, but it seems that they studio has been given free range to develop the sequel as it sees fit. That includes support for Google Stadia and drop in/drop out co-op multiplayer which will allow you to be joined on your quests by fellow adventurers to help (or possibly hinder?) progress. The setting will be based on the excellent 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, which have been praised for balancing streamlined gameplay mechanics with more flexibility for storytelling than the previous rulesets.

Other than that, it’s early days for Baldur’s Gate 3. A release will definitely not be on the cards this year, and the interview suggests it probably won’t be next year either. But we’ve waited nineteen years. If the end result is the game that fans have all been hoping for, a couple more won’t hurt.

Conclusion Two: Bethesda really believes in its products

Wait, no. The opposite of that. In an interview with IGN this week, Bethesda director Todd Howard claimed that he knew Fallout 76 would have a rough launch. “We knew we were going to have a lot of bumps,” he said. “It’s a difficult development.”

That can be considered an understatement. Our review considered it to be average and riddled with bugs — something that the PS4 version is still suffering from, six months on. The criticism it received was “well deserved” according to Howard. Yet it’s a comment shortly after that which likely had his staff rolling their eyes.

“Even from the beginning we knew: this is not going to be a high Metacritic game. That’s not what this is.” — Todd Howard, Director, Bethesda

Reading between the lines, it seems that Howard is suggesting he never expected Fallout 76 to be any good, but was happy to ship it anyway. This is likely to anger players who may rightly believe that Bethesda was more interested in shilling low-quality merch than making a game worth playing. But it’s the developers at Bethesda we feel for — their boss has basically told the world that he knew their output was going to be substandard and wasn’t really bothered. I might be missing something, but I don’t believe that’s how good leadership works. If you don’t believe that what you’re putting onto the market is worth buying, you’re doing both your customers and your staff a huge disservice.

Conclusion Three: It may finally be time to face your Destiny

Assuming that, like me, you haven’t yet had time to play the online loot shooter. Bungie could potentially be making that decision a lot easier if a now deleted post and tweet from Engadget is to be believed — namely, that Destiny 2 will soon be turned into a free-to-play game.

The details of the post (which may or may not be true, or might just have been published early) have been collated on Resetera. The main takeaways are that the game will be renamed to Destiny 2: New Light, the game will move to a free-to-play model once the Shadowkeep expansion is released on September 17th, there will be cross-save support for PC, Xbox and Stadia, and that all content will be released on all platforms simultaneously in future.

There are still question marks around the overall and ongoing cost — even if the core game is free, a paywall would presumably be hit head on at some point. It’s likely that you’ll have made your decision about whether to continue playing long before then though, so this shouldn’t be an issue. Bungie seems to be taking an intelligent approach to their IP; this is a natural evolution for a two-year-old game which has proven to be wildly popular. Making it free-to-play is likely to attract a whole new crowd wondering what the fuss is all about.

Conclusion Four: You, too, can smell like an Xbox.

Trying to define the real smell of an Xbox has been one of the great mysteries that philosophers have pondered for years, along with the identity of dark matter and the reason for the Sun’s atmosphere being hotter than its surface. Thankfully, we no longer need to worry because Microsoft and Lynx have come together to tell us exactly what Xbox smells like, before bottling it and sticking it on a shelf for us to buy.

According to Gamespot who has seen the official description of the new range of deodorants, sprays, and body washes being launched in the collaboration between Lynx and Xbox ANZ:

“Lynx Xbox is a fresh scent of pulsing green citrus, featuring top notes of kaffir lime and winter lemon, aromatic herbal middle notes of mint and sage, and woody bottom notes of patchouli and clearwood. Containing a range of natural essential oils, the Xbox Lynx range comes with a sleek new look and features a body spray, deodorant, and shower gel.”

The products will be available in Australia and New Zealand but there’s no word on whether they’ll hit the UK, or the US (where the product is known as Axe). According to the ANZ boss Tania Chee, Xbox Lynx will let you “power up” before leaving in the morning. We’re not sure what this means, and we’re not the only bemused party — the father of the Xbox, Seamus Blackley, is considering heavy drinking in response to learning how his creation is being shilled. Still, maybe it’ll encourage the more pungent gamers among us to bathe a little more frequently, which would come as a blessing to anyone who has ever been to a convention.

Conclusion Five: The Tesla will be the world's most expensive portable console

Finally this week: have you ever gone on a long car journey as a passenger and immediately regretted not bringing a Switch with you? Don’t worry, eccentric billionaire Elon Musk has you covered. He announced in a Ride the Lightning interview this week that the Tesla will be packing a pretty well-known game in its Model S and Model X vehicles this summer: Cuphead.

According to Musk, the “sadistically difficult” platformer — well, at least one level of it since the car’s storage is pretty limited — will be available for your driving pleasure, thanks to Tesla’s work with Studio MDHR. Given the precise and often unforgiving nature of the game, you’ll need a special controller to actually be able to play it properly. Touch screen is simply not going to cut it.

For anyone worried whether the excitement of the game may prompt a driver to take their eyes off the road when their excited passenger is hurling abuse at the monitor, fear not. Cuphead will only be playable when the Tesla is parked. Still, with driverless cars still being developed by the company it’s only a matter of time before everyone can put their feet up and enjoy a blast of console goodness from the comfort of their very expensive vehicle.

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Rob Kershaw

I've been gaming since the days of the Amstrad. Huge RPG fan. Planescape: Torment tops my list, but if a game tells a good story, I'm interested. Absolutely not a fanboy of any specific console or PC - the proof is in the gaming pudding. Also, I like cake.