Welcome to PRESS START, a brand spanking new weekly video game newsletter from me, probablyoliver! Each week, we’ll be taking a deep dive into a different topic, talking about the current video game news, taking a look at what’s coming up on the gaming calendar and answering a question from you, the reader. This week, in our premiere issue, we’ll be naval gazing on whether 2022 was the best year in video game history, mourning what definitely, absolutely, is most certainly, the last delay of Skull and Bones, and preparing ourselves for three heavy-hitting RPGs coming to storefronts this week. But first, let’s take a look at Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and talk about how Respawn could very well be about to release the Game of the Year of 2023…
We’re a little over two months until the release of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Respawn’s hotly anticipated follow up to 2019’s surprisingly brilliant Dark Souls-inspired Lightsaber’em-up, Jedi: Fallen Order, and I for one have an unprecedented level of hype for what I truly believe could be one of the best video games of the year.
It’s fair to say that Star Wars has had a complicated relationship with the video games medium over the last thirty years (and let’s be honest, a complicated relationship with books, TV and film too, but let’s leave that topic well alone), especially in the wake of what turned out to be a questionable and tumultuous ten year licensing deal made with bedraggled publishing giant EA in 2013. Star Wars fans have been right to be a little distrusting of any new video game announcement in recent years. After all, we’ve not only seen unmitigated PR disasters like 2018’s infamous ‘sense of pride and accomplishment’ Battlefront 2 debacle (which remains Reddit’s most down-voted comment with a whopping minus 660,000 score!), but also high-profile cancellations of sought-after prestige titles like Star Wars 1313 and Amy Hennig and Visceral’s ‘Project Ragtag’. Overall, it’s been a rough time for Star Wars video game fans.
With that said, it was all the more surprising when Respawn’s Fallen Order not only saw the light of day, but actually turned out to be pretty good in the process. It was janky, unstable and packed to the brim with some incredibly funny bugs and glitches (and some not-so-funny-hard-crashes), but it also presented one of the best Star Wars stories ever told. A deeply personal saga of self-discovery in the face of immeasurable loss and post-traumatic stress disorder which earned it’s healthy doses of fanservice with it’s Uncharted-like level traversal and hard-as-nails Souls-like combat. This was, for the first time in a long time, a Star Wars game that fans could rally behind, and after six years of fumbling the bag, EA finally had a Star Wars hit on its hands.
The last hour of Fallen Order is quite possibly my single favourite sequence in Star Wars history – a desperate dash through an underwater base featuring one of the greatest cameos in video games, and an epic final boss fight with a phenomenally well-crafted villain. For a game that was seemingly rushed through the gate at the behest of its publisher and one that felt almost unplayable at times, it somehow landed the plane, offering a hair-raising finale that made its impossible-to-read map design and wonky physics worthwhile.
With it’s upcoming sequel, Respawn has an opportunity to release something truly special, and should Jedi: Survivor find a way to iron out the technical creases of its predecessor, Cal Kestis’ continued journey on his way to Jedi masterhood could truly be one for the ages. The Force is with Respawn on this one, and I’ll be first in line to play when it releases on PC, PS5 and Xbox consoles on March 17th.
Whilst many are still shaking the cobwebs off from the holiday period, Xbox and Bethesda are diving straight into 2023 with the upcoming Developer_Direct (no word on if the underscore is silent, we’re choosing to assume it’s not) taking place on Wednesday, January 25th and set to give updates across many of Xbox’s first-party studios, including Mojang, Arkane Austin and Turn 10 Studios. It’s been a bit of a rocky start to this generation for Xbox, with the Microsoft-owned platform banking on the promise of its excellent GamePass service rather than the release of actual first-party games. Now, with the power of Bethesda behind them and an ambitious slate of games ready to release, this could very much be Xbox’s year. What’s more, Xbox Germany seemed to (perhaps accidentally) suggest that this conference will feature release dates for heavy–hitters Forza Motorsport and Redfall, further cementing that 2023 could finally be the year that Xbox delivers.
This week also saw the announcement of the nominations of this year’s D.I.C.E. Awards, and unsurprisingly, God of War Ragnarök, Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West lead the way with the most nominations. However, D.I.C.E. always makes for an interesting awards show, as its panel is made up of developers, publishers and programmers rather than the standard affair of gaming journalists and influencers. This has resulted in some pretty out-of-left-field victories over the years, with LittleBigPlanet in 2013 and Untitled Goose Game in 2019 winning Game of the Year over the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3 and Death Stranding. Could we see Vampire Survivors do the same this year? We’ll find out on February 24th.
There’s few phrases as horrifying as ‘video game adaptation’ (more on that next week!), but by the sounds of things, HBO’s high budget adaptation of The Last Of Us seems to have got things just right, as reviews for the upcoming nine-episode series have called it the ‘best video game adaptation of all time’. With the creative forces behind 2019’s incredible Chernobyl behind it, and with The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal and Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey starring, this absolutely seems to be an adaptation like no other. I’m not sure how emotionally prepared I am for it, especially knowing how things pan out, but this could very well be a new benchmark for how video games can adapt and change for other mediums. Next week, after watching the first episode, I’ll be talking in depth about gaming’s troubled history with adaptations and whether or not The Last Of Us is as good as the critics are saying it is, so for now, maybe let me know your favourite or least favourite video game adaptations in the comments below.
Final Fantasy XVI isn’t coming to PC and you if you want to play it, you should just buy a PS5 says game producer Naoki Yoshida, except for the fact that is definitely is coming to PC, because they’ve already told us it is. That’s right, every piece of marketing for Square Enix’s upcoming next instalment in the storied franchise has confirmed that the game is a PS5 exclusive for just six months, and that each build shown has been running on a PC emulating PS5 hardware. Between this and Yoshida’s troubling response to legitimate criticism that the game doesn’t appear to feature any characters of colour makes me think that maybe Yoshida should leave the marketing beats for the marketing department.
Avast, me hearties, we won’t be setting sail on the seven seas this year, because Ubisoft has done the unthinkable and delayed Skull and Bones, confirming it to now be expected to release ‘early’ in the 2023-2024 fiscal window. It’s is a game which was initially revealed in 2017, and has been in active development since 2013. This marks a whopping seven public delays for a game that was originally set to be a spin-off of Ubisoft’s 2013 pirate’em-up Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Since then, by my count, there’s been no less than fifteen Assassin’s Creed games released across all platforms. What’s most surprising is that Ubisoft remain committed to releasing their pirate adventure, especially knowing they’ve since cancelled multiple games behind the scenes.
It’s a big week ahead for JRPG fans of all flavours as two legacy titles finally come to modern-day consoles, and a prestige franchise releases its ambitious next instalment.
Firstly, after being trapped on their portable PlayStation prisons for so long (never forget, Vita means life), Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden finally see the light of day on January 19th when they finally come to PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation consoles in what will undoubtedly breath new life into both classic JRPGs. I’ve personally only recently been converted into a Persona fan, having poured 130+ hours into the phenomenal Persona 5 Royal this time last year and I can’t wait to dive into both of these legacy titles.
Fire Emblem fans also have reason to celebrate this week as a brand new instalment, Fire Emblem Engage, releases exclusively for Switch on January 20th. My only experience with the Fire Emblem saga so far has been using its multiple sword wielding anime protagonists in brilliant Nintendo’em-up Super Smash Bros, so I’d be interested to know how people are feeling about this new game, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether it’s worth jumping into in the comments below.
It’s issue one for Press Start, so this week’s mailbox question comes from yours truly. If you want you to get involved and ask a question for future editions, you can leave a comment below, but for this week, I’ll answer the question that’s on everyone’s lips at the start of each year; how good was last year, and was 2022 the best year in video game history?
Whilst the video game news cycle in 2022 was dominated by Xbox’s eye-watering $69billion acquisition of Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard (as well as the seemingly endless opposition towards it), the video game release calendar seemed, at times, a little barren. At the start of the year, what was poised to become one of the most anticipated (and expensive) years in video game history soon became the year of delays, as the likes of Bethesda’s ambitious new IP Starfield, Breath of the Wild sequel Tears of the Kingdom and Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League slipped through the cracks into 2023. In a post-covid, post-Cyberpunk world, developers across the gamut were hesitant to pull the trigger on their projects too early, instead taking the difficult decision to allow their games to gestate a little longer. It was Miyamota’s oft-maligned ‘Bad game bad, delayed game good’ prophecy come to pass.
However, though 2022 didn’t deliver in quantity, it most certainly delivered in quality as both FromSoftware’s Elden Ring and Sony Santa Monica’s God of War Ragnarök released to critical and public acclaim, quickly becoming two of the highest rated games in OpenCritic history, currently sitting at 4th and 14th on the aggregator’s all-time list. I would even go as far as to say that these two games are, without a shadow of a doubt, the best games of their respective genres and a ringing endorsement of what video games have come to represent over the last few generations. Neither game presents much in the way of innovation, neither game reinvents the wheel, but both have proven iteration allows video games to side-step the ‘sequelitus’ that often plagues other forms of media, instead using improvements in hardware to offer bigger and better worlds that simply weren’t possible a generation or two ago.
I would be hard-pressed to call 2022 the best year in video game history, even if it gave us two of the best video games of all time, because to me, each year in video games presents something new which couldn’t be done before, and that’s the beauty of this medium I love so much. Elden Ring and Ragnarök were always going to be fantastic, and in five years time, we’ll all be singing the praises of whatever comes next from their respective developers, such is the calibre of their talent. It’s a cop-out answer, but I truly believe that in some way or another, every year for the last twenty years has somehow been the best year in video game history, because every year has given us something new, something exciting, and something that was impossible the year before that.
Going forward, 2023 is already looking to be stacked to the gills with not only those aforementioned games pushed back from last year, but also the likes of Insomniac’s PlayStation exclusive Spider-Man 2, not one but potentially two Final Fantasy releases, and the long-awaited Hollow Knight sequel. Once again, these games aren’t going to reinvent the wheel, but they’re all going to deliver us something new, something special and something that wasn’t possible before. I can’t wait to sit here a year from now and talk about how 2023 was the best year in video game history, just like every other year before it.