Bethesda Gearing Up for Next Game; Skyrim DLC Comes to an End
The saga of Skyrim — the fifth and most successful entry into The Elder Scrolls series — is at its end. After more than a year of supporting their fantasy RPG with updates and content (including a healthy dosage of story DLC), Bethesda is moving away from their “labor of love” and is ratcheting up production on a new, unannounced title.
In an open letter to fans on the Bethesda Blog, the studio revealed segments of their development team have been in pre-production on this project but now “that game is at the point where it requires the studio’s full attention to make it our biggest and best work yet.”
Despite its resounding financial and critical success, this next project is unlikely to be Skyrim’s follow up, given the team’s track record. Instead, RPG fans may be plunged back into the Wasteland, if these rumors are to be taken at face value. Be it Fallout 4 or, maybe just possibly, a brand new IP, the only sure bet is that we’ll be well into the next-generation of gaming before we once again get to feverishly dedicate a hundred-plus hours into Bethesda’s next immersive world.
Cyberpunk 2077 Features Multiplayer; The Witcher 3…Might
Polish studio CD Projekt Red is working on an element as of now unknown to The Witcher — the fantasy RPG saga that pinned them on the map. Cyberpunk 2077, their love letter to the genre written in the form of an open-world RPG, will include some degree of multiplayer.
I’d describe more, but a lot of Cyberpunk 2077 remains confined to a drawing board overseen by a small group of busy bodies still pooling and distilling ideas for the next-gen title. In fact, the majority of Projekt Red is committed to banging out The Witcher 3 for a 2014 release, while Cyberpunk is being aimed at 2015.
That tantalizing CG trailer posted a little while back wasn’t just to give cyberpunk fans a collective stiffy — it was poised to attract prospective talent keen on realizing CDPR’s oppressed future metropolis of Night City. Once The Witcher 3 has gold status in reach and the tiny, separate brainstorming team has congealed its best ideas, production on 2077 will ramp up.
Unlike The Witcher’s focus on a preset hero, Cyberpunk 2077 allows freedom of choice in your character and their class (as well as the havoc you can wreak on Night City — adhering to the hero persona is not a must this time out). “It will be a story-based RPG experience with amazing single-player playthroughs, but we’re going to add multiplayer features,” said CDPR’s manager director, Adam Badowski, to Eurogamer.
That, in particular, strikes my ears as “Multiplayer comes second.” But, with any open-world game teasing the addition of multiple players, I can only dream of teaming with comrades, going anywhere, doing anything, and freely plundering the environment — for good or ill (probably ill; shit tons of ill). Grant me this, CD Projekt Red, and I swear I’ll adopt “Deus What?” as my new catchphrase…right next to “Shit tons of ill.”
As for The Witcher 3 entering the multiplayer domain? “We’re thinking about something,” is all Badowski would say, which is just damned assuring, but do your lungs a favor and don’t hold your breath.
Lightning Returns “Unique Enough” to Drop the XIII-3 Name
A branching of stories within the Final Fantasy games — referred to as the ‘Lightning Saga’ — comes to a close next year, forming the franchise’s first full-fledged trilogy. Despite beginning with Final Fantasy XIII and carrying on to, naturally, Final Fantasy XIII-2, the final chapter shutting the curtains on this saga forgoes the logical, if unimaginative, next step numbering of XIII-3.
Given that Final Fantasy: Lightning Returns is projected for the tail end of 2013, I’d expect even the shittiest basement dwelling ad agency to go nuts with the coincidence and drill XIII-3 in ‘13 squarely into gamer’s heads. But in explaining why Lightning Returns shirks the numbering scheme in an interview with 4gamer, the game’s creators have shared insights on just how different of a beast this finale is from previous entries.
Yoshinori Kitase, the game’s producer, says the game is, put simply, a “new experience.” Calling it XIII-3 would already put the incorrect suggestion into fans’ minds that this sequel’s gameplay launches off of XIII-2’s conceits. Motomu Toriyama, tasked with directorial duties, breaks down each installment as such: the original XIII, at its foundation, was story driven, while XIII-2 opted for a more player driven approach. Lightning Returns revolves around the notion that the game is “world driven,” where the world environment runs in real-time, “24 hours a day” and is dramatically “changing and shifting” whether the player is there to experience it or not.
This design element both instills a sense of urgency in players to seek out events and happenings before they play out without them while also promoting serious amounts of replay value, where going about subsequent playthroughs differently rewards you with new content each time. Slaying monsters or performing miracles (whatever the hell that means; slaying monsters sounds tiring as it is) impacts the flow of time — which is constantly ticking down till doomsday — by either speeding it up or slowing it down. This mechanic plays into the “risk versus reward” nature of the game.
Every little shred of information I hear about this game — and we’re talking very little shreds considering the game’s August announcement — absolutely fascinates me. There was a time in my gaming life when a Final Fantasy release meant that nothing besides a Squaresoft emblazoned disc would be spinning in my drive for weeks straight. XIII brought with it a decidedly mixed era for the franchise, but from what I’m hearing, Lightning’s Saga is attempting to end on a high note.
Is The Commonwealth to Be Fallout 4’s New Wasteland?
Bethesda’s open-world RPG formula has had the good fortune of going from popular in Fallout 3 to insanely fucking popular with the release of Skyrim. While a return to the Fallout franchise has not been made official by the company, it’s probably a safe bet that Bethesda is already pouring resources and development time into a successor considering their upward acclaim from title to title.
With that in mind, we can sink our teeth into this irradiated slice of a rumor. Speaking through the information laden avenues of Reddit, an anonymous user that “may or may not” be affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claims Bethesda is scouting the Boston region, researching the locale with the intention of using the city as a backdrop for Fallout 4.
The proverbial Pip-Boy fits given that The Commonwealth — Fallout’s apocalyptic version of the greater Massachusetts area — has already been referenced in series lore. Specifically in Fallout 3, a Blade Runner-esque subplot involving androids escaped from a place called “The Institute” (need I mention MIT?) serves as one of the more prominent mentions of The Commonwealth.
What’s the most important information we can glean from this rumor? That there are even rumors circulating in the first place, which equates to the first shaky steps in seeing this franchise continue. If this rumor be fact, that means pre-production has commenced…unfortunately that also probably means we won’t see Fallout 4 until the next console cycle. That’s the industry, kids. It never changes.
Picked up Dragon’s Dogma for the 360. In a sentence: above average combat undercut by below average storytelling. But is it fun? Yeah, it very much is. That and utterly frustrating. I couldn’t tell you how many times I came this close to felling a giant, son-of-a-bitching troll when a flailing limb would completely pulverize me and my half hour of progress in battle.
Still, Dogma is a unique bend on the Westernized RPG that only truly falters when it tries to exactly match its influences. Of its innovations, I actually really dig on the pawn system. Not only do I enjoy enlisting other people’s decked out companions to quest with me, but I love the fact that my own created helper (“Ellie Ripley”) can journey out with strangers and recon their playthroughs.
When you relinquish other people’s pawns from your party, you’re able to rate their performance and leave stoic little preset messages like “Is cute” or “Fought bravely,” and then, if you want, send them back with a gift for their master. I try to gift items like healing herbs.
People usually send my pawn back with rocks or rotten food. Is cute.
Project Copernicus and the Week No One Was Paid
When 38 Studios revealed Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to the world, the developer promised the mythos created by acclaimed fantasy novelist R.A. Salvatore would bleed into other titles going forward. Tentatively called Copernicus, 38 Studios looks to move their IP into another realm, away from the solo RPG adventure of Reckoning, and into the MMO scene.
Too bad doing so costs so goddamn much. Slightly overshadowing Copernicus’ environmental demo wheel (above), 38 has taken the spotlight themselves in the form of financial troubles; namely, the fact that the studio was unable to provide compensation in any manner for its employees this week. That’s…seriously a memo no one wanted read, let alone fucking write.
The payroll strain was a direct consequence of company founder Curt Shilling (yep, of the MLB) attempting to make good on a late loan payment of over a million bucks to the state of Rhode Island. The Ocean State’s starstruck governor, Donald Carcieri, extended a $75 million dollar incentive in 2010 for the former Red Sox pitcher to relocate his Massachusetts based company to Little Rhody in the hopes of bringing back some economical boom where the state’s once thriving jewelry industry imploded.
At least on a few levels the venture seemed well intentioned (more jobs and video games are two things keeping America afloat), but the deal was always a high-risk proposition, especially considering Shilling’s willingness to burn cash on new talent and acquisitions (Shilling purchased Big Huge Games from THQ back in 2009 — exactly zero games into 38’s gaming career).
Rhode Island’s Economic Development Corporation has confirmed it returned 38 Studios’ $1.125 million dollar check citing “insufficient funds.” Critically and commercially, the company’s first game performed decently, giving us no clue as to what has pushed 38 into this financial sinkhole until the information is made public. MMO’s are certainly expensive, bringing us back full circle. If 38 Studios is unable to rectify their issues in the coming weeks, you can be sure this video is the last you ever see of Copernicus and whatever it may become. And as a mighty defender of video games and things of joy, I cannot abide.
UPDATE: 38 Studios’ payment has cleared with the RIEDC, after its initial check bounced like a basketball. 38 now has to pursue private funding from outside benefactors as the state of Rhode Island is adamant the development studio doesn’t see another red cent. Successor to office, Governor Lincoln Chafee, put his foot down when asked if he’d okay similar risky endeavors. “Never. Not on my watch.”
Copernicus is still on schedule for 2013. As are escalating payments 38 Studios must make to the Ocean State.
Dragon’s Dogma Wins Over the East
For those of you on the fence about Capcom’s attempt at an open world fantasy RPG — if you’re even on the fence; I know a lot of you fantasy junkies are contenting yourself on Diablo sessions in between server crashes — word has flown from the Osaka based publisher’s hometown of Japan that Dragon’s Dogma ain’t too shabby after all.
Of particular note, intensely critical yet insanely popular gaming magazine Famitsu awarded the action-RPG the coveted “Hall of Fame: Gold” award. This is a pretty damn hard award to bag when you keep in mind how the magazine scores titles. Famitsu practices a “Cross Review” system in which four editors will filter their impressions into a 10-Scale score, then those four ratings will be added up for a final sum that can only possibly go up to 40 (yet usually doesn’t). I hope that made a semblance of sense; I’m not repeating myself.
Famitsu’s reviewers rated Dragon’s Dogma with two 8’s and two 9’s, amounting to a total of 34 (just enough to earn that gold star). Now typically I wouldn’t consider anyone else’s review score hot enough news to tap key over (especially since I don’t base my reviews around a numbered system). But it’s poignant to note that Famitsu is particularly harsh on a game’s flaws and that their review format makes it so even above average games come off as savagely mediocre.
If it’s good enough for Famitsu, it must be good enough for us Westerners who are so spoiled on open world RPG’s to begin with. Though I predict we’ll see more money thrown at Dawnguard this Summer than retail copies of Dogma. Which is a shame, since bringing down screeching griffons by hacking on their wings while riding them is the kind of over-the-top testosterone injection our RPGs’ collective sacks need.
You can pick up Dragon’s Dogma on Tuesday for the PS3 or Xbox 360. In the meanwhile, download the demo from PSN or XBLA and wreck a griffon’s face now.
Prepare Yourself, ‘Dawnguard’ is Coming to Skyrim This Summer
A DLC expansion is finally on its way to The Elder Scrolls V, but unfortunately only one-third of the game’s fans will get to enjoy it. An exclusive timed release for the Xbox 360 version of the game, Dawnguard is being made available for download this Summer off of Xbox Live. PC and PS3 owners will still be privy to the content — just on a different time table. The extra heat radiating from your computer is normal; it’s merely the collective scorn seething from the internet.
The announcement shouldn’t be that surprising, though. Microsoft and Bethesda’s courtship has been long and storied, dating back to Morrowind’s exclusivity to the original Xbox and Windows PC, with recent examples cropping up like, say, today’s fresh Kinect compatibility update to Skyrim where you can harness shouts like a true dovahkiin and let neighbors loudly know how alone you are (I jest; but seriously, Apartment 310, keep it the fus down).
When it comes to details, Bethesda has gone only as far as making Dawnguard’s name public, pushing a full reveal to June’s E3. During the stretch between now and then, the company says more free updates should be expected.