Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 22/03/19

March 22, 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: Carmen is in San Diego, right?

Everyone knows that as long as you steal something for the right reasons, it’s not really a crime. It worked for Robin Hood. Well, for a while at least. It also works for famous international lady-in-red, Carmen Sandiego who, distressingly, is referred to as a gentleman thief on her wiki page.

The famous head of the villainous VILE organisation has joined forces with Google. Not that Google are evil. Carmen has stolen the Crown Jewels, or for our non-British readers: the Queen’s hat. It’s down to you, an intrepid investigator of the ACME organisation, to hunt down Carmen and bring her to justice.

In the first of a planned series of games, you’ll travel across the globe in your hunt. Corniness aside, there’s actually a lot to admire here. There’s a common theme that Carmen ignited an interest in the customs and cultures of the world well beyond any geography lesson.

Long may that continue! You can read more about the game here.

Conclusion Two: Half-Life 3 has been confirmed

Assuming, of course, that you believe anything that Gabe Newell says. The number of people that take him at face value has dwindled over the years, mainly because the Valve boss has a history of trolling people when it comes to Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (or indeed, Half-Life 3), including himself in a DOTA 2 video where he appeared unable to say the number “three”.

So, when a 32-year-old emailed him to ask if he will still be alive by the time the next episode is released, Newell responded in trademark fashion.

At JDR, we’re eternal optimists. So, for us, that stands as a cast iron guarantee that we’ll finally see a conclusion to a story that has lain untouched for over eleven years.

Conclusion Three: Sony is taking the PlayStation to PC

Is Sony, so long the dominant force in this generation of consoles, worried? The recent announcement of Google Stadia during the GDC sent a few shockwaves across the industry. Gaming in a browser? Gaming without a console? What madness is this? Yet for all the fanfare, Stadia is yet to be tested on an internet connection in the back end of nowhere, where the internet bandwidth is as narrow as the minds of some of the local populace. Or, as a few wags call it, Devon.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Sony opening the door to some of its treasured exclusives leaving its platform and heading into the great PC yonder. Quantic Dream’s trilogy of PlayStation-only games (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human) are all moving over to the Epic Store as, yes, exclusives on that platform.

Is this the start of a cross-platform exodus from Sony’s back catalogue to try and drum up some cash to counter the Google behemoth? Are we soon going to see the likes of Kratos and Nathan Drake on our home PCs? Or is it the beginning of something even bigger — a slow, inexorable move to a homogenised single gaming platform encompassing all of today’s main players?  

All of them except Nintendo, of course. Nintendo does its own thing. Always.

Conclusion Four: BioWare has a stay of execution

All eyes were on the Anthem launch after BioWare tried to win back public favour following the bland Mass Effect: Andromeda failed to ignite the imagination of fans. With EA holding the purse strings, the new game needed to be a financial success, if not a critical one.

In that respect, both of those events came to pass. The game released to distinctly average reviews, it appears that it's made a significant amount of money. According to Superdata, Anthem was the top-selling game on console in February and it made over $100 million at launch (with another $3.5 million on in-game purchases). In terms of release success, that's the second best launch for BioWare ever, after Mass Effect 3.

Gamers were understandably worried about the studio's fate, should Anthem not do the numbers. With another Dragon Age game in the pipeline (and a huge amount of hope being pinned on it being a true return to form after the fantastic Inquisition), all eyes were on whether BioWare would make a loss on their latest title, causing EA to close the studio. The publisher has indicated they wouldn't, regardless of the outcome — but it's EA, and cash is king.

BioWare aren't totally out of the woods yet. Anthem is an online game, so ongoing support will cost money. BioWare's head, Casey Hudson, has been frank about the issues plaguing its launch. And if the studio doesn't step up to address the myriad faults, bugs, and general emptiness in the game quick-sharp, the return on investment might still fail to meet expectations at EA's headquarters. For now though, regardless of whether you like Anthem or not (and it wouldn't be the first game to have a turnaround in fortune after a rocky launch), it looks like we may get to play at least one more BioWare game in the future.

Conclusion Five: Can I get a Witness? Yes, but only for a fortnight

Epic has really knocked it out of the park as launches go. The Epic Games Store has not only drawn a line in the sand when it comes to challenging Valve’s stranglehold on the PC games marketplace, but is also tempting gamers in with a series of ridiculous freebies. Currently, the superb Oxenfree is on there for the low, low price of nothing (and you can see our different take on that game here). Previous games offered gratis include Thimbleweed Park and Super Meat Boy.

But in a couple of weeks, Epic is going to add The Witness to their fortnightly giveaway. Jonathan Blow’s follow-up to his smash hit Braid may have proven less accessible, its puzzles more fiendish. But there was no doubt that The Witness was beautifully taxing and painstakingly crafted, and it was nominated for numerous awards as well as gaining commercial and critical success. We’ll no doubt be doing a Brutal Backlog review of it at some point in the future, but in the meantime mark your calendar for April 4th and get your thinking cap on.

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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.