#64: Microsoft Ends Studio Binge

TODAY: Longing for that sweet, vanilla World of WarCraft experience? Better get in line — PlatinumGames’ Astral Chain is out this week and the critics have spoken — Gather a bunch of friends and get spooked on in The Man From Medan

Top Story

Xbox Game Studios is sated, for now

Having recently feasted on a healthy helping of development studios, Microsoft’s now slightly bloated Xbox Game Studios will put down its fork and take some time to digest their new teams.

Ninja Theory, Double Fine, inXile and Obsidian were among the tasty morsels on Microsoft’s menu, and while they probably won’t say no to some desserts, they’re no longer quite as hungry for talent as they used to be. Microsoft has also pledged to honour the studios’ current commitments, so upcoming games will still hit every platform they were planned for – but any new projects will be focused on PC and Xbox.

Microsoft currently has 15 internal teams

“You never know, but right now I think where we are, with our 15 internal studios, we feel really good about the amount of content we’re getting from that, whether it’s supporting Project Scarlett, or supporting Xbox Games Pass on PC and console, we feel like we have a healthy set of content across multiple genres, multiple game types, that will excite our fans,” Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg told Twinfinite.

Greenberg also added that Microsoft hasn’t changed any of policies regarding content censorship unlike Sony, which recently stipulated additional certification requirements. “What I can say is that we haven’t changed the way we do that and we haven’t put any type of new or unique restriction on content providers,” he added. Meanwhile, Nintendo has stated that as long as a game gets certified they won’t interfere, as it harms ‘diversity and fairness’.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

The director of Disney’s Aladdin game for Genesis/MegaDrive went on to make which beloved game?

  • Crash Bandicoot
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Rayman

The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!

News Bits

Carnival of Chaos Reveal Trailer

Team17 have just released a tasty trailer revealing the upcoming Carnival of Chaos DLC for Overcooked! 2. The latest portion of co-op cooking mayhem will be served up September 12 for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. It is included in the Season Pass buffet that also features Night of the Hangry Horde and Campfire Cook Off.

Wait time nostalgia in WoW Classic

Blizzard Entertainment is really doing everything they can to ensure the World of Warcraft Classic experience is as authentic as possible: Even trying to log into a ‘medium’ population server leads to lengthy wait time. The “unprecedented size of the queues” is skewing the way they calculate realm population, says the studio. It just wouldn’t be classic WoW if you have to queue for half an hour to get on the server. More servers are being added in batches to help address this initial glut of logins.

Daily Fact

There was almost a SNES CD-ROM System, the “Nintendo Play Station”

The games industry could have looked quite a bit different if Sony and Nintendo had worked out their differences. Instead, Sony’s CD-ROM adapter for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System probably still sits gathering dust in a storage room somewhere. It was intended to expand the Super Nintendo’s storage capabilities with a CD-ROM format called Super Disk, much like the Mega-CD for Genesis.

Sony would even have launched their own version named the Nintendo Play Station – but instead, Sony decided to make a console of their own to rival Nintendo’s cartridge-based Nintendo 64. You might have heard about it!

You might remember from an earlier Daily Fact that this ultimately cost Nintendo the Final Fantasy franchise, which had been a Nintendo exclusive until Sony’s new CD-ROM-based console hit Akihabara, and never looked back. Please insert disc 2.

Daily News

PlatinumGames’ Astral Chain review round-up – out on Switch this week

PlatinumGames’ latest is hitting Switch this week on August 30. Astral Chain is an action-adventure following a pair of twins from the ‘Neuron’ police task force battling enemies and the environment in an interdimensional area known as the Astral Plane. What do the critics say? Let’s find out:

  • Nintendo Insider (Score 10/10) – “Astral Chain is yet another addition to the Nintendo Switch library that will be fondly remembered for decades to come. Its yin-yang of chaos and carnage, fused with the calmer subtleties of investigation and exploration makes returning back to the action that little bit more special every time.”
  • Switch Player (Score 5/5) – ”Astral Chain is one of the most confident, stylish and satisfying third-person action games we’ve played in quite a while. While its narrative might be melodramatic, battles and enemy encounters always deliver a thrilling but balanced challenge.”
  • VGC (Score 5/5) – ”A one of a kind combat experience and Platinum’s most well-rounded adventure to date. A killer combo in every sense of the term.”
  • Nintendo Enthusiast (Score 9.5/10) – ”Astral Chain packs the punch you would expect from Platinum Games while simultaneously going above and beyond in all other areas. It’s great to see Platinum stepping even further out of its shell with expertly crafted titles like NieR: Automata and now Astral Chain. This marks another game in the studio’s catalog that is nothing short of amazing.”
  • IGN (Score 90/100) – ”Astral Chain is every bit as awesome as it looks in motion, which is to say it’s downright incredible.”
  • Game Informer (Score 10/10) – ”Platinum has created a wonderful new universe for players to dive into that I could see extending into anime, movies, and hopefully sequels. The dual-character gameplay is also brilliantly devised, and although not as difficult as PlatinumGames’ other titles, creates a duet that makes you feel like a powerful, unstoppable force. The story may be the weakest part of the experience, given just how much it changes trajectory, but it has some legitimately great moments, and a big twist I didn’t see coming. All told, this is one hell of a game.”
  • Nintendo Life (Score 9/10) – ”With its amazing visuals, fantastic presentation, varied gameplay and deep, rewarding combat, Astral Chain could well be PlatinumGames’ most accomplished game yet. It mixes detective work with exhilarating battle sequences that are inventive, challenging and – perhaps most importantly – breathtakingly cool. The complexity of the game’s myriad systems may prove intimidating for some players, but the inclusion of a co-op play and the ability to automate many of the mechanics via the ‘Unchained’ mode means that even complete newcomers can still enjoy the ride. Astral Chain isn’t just one of the Switch’s stand-out hits – it’s one of 2019’s best video games.”
  • Twinfinite (Score 4.5/5) – ”Astral Chain could is one of the best games on Nintendo Switch, period. PlatinumGames has proved, once again, that no one does stylish action games better, and I sincerely hope we get to return to the Ark again someday.”
  • Destructoid (Score 9/10) – ”In the first few hours, I was all over the place when it came to an assessment, as it can take some time to really turn it up.”
  • LevelUp (Score 8.8/10) – ”Once again, PlatinumGames delivers a great action game with a fun and intense combat system. That said, the real reason Astral Chain shines is thanks to the synergistic action game that feels like something fresh and with great potential.”
  • EGM (Score 4/5) – ”Astral Chain is loud, brash, exciting, and, in the end, a warning about the dangers of unquestioned loyalty. Its hyperkinetic action sequences and colorful characters might make the game seem like it isn’t interested in offering more than intricately designed fights and a straightforward genre story, but stick around for its entirety and its cast of 2070s police officers show themselves to be more than just cartoon cut-outs of sci-fi cops.”
  • USgamer (Score 4/5) – ”Astral Chain is the directorial debut of Nier Automata designer Takahisa Taura, and it proves that he’s a creator worth paying attention to. Part melodramatic anime, part overly complicated Tamagotchi, it’s an eminently playable action role-playing game that delivers the pleasure of good teamwork in a way few singleplayer games accomplish. Building on action design ideas seeded in Nier, Astral Chain encourages you to bond with your beloved pet cybermonster both on and off the battlefield. Then, it teaches you how to fight as one.”
  • TheSixthAxis (Score 8/10) – ”Astral Chain boasts the same winning elements of Platinum’s finest work – exhilarating combat, characterful visuals, and a compelling story – but it loses a bit of personality. Where Bayonetta and 2B provided an emotional centre point for the fantastical storytelling, Astral Chain’s unnecessarily silent protagonist is a charmless creation saved by an utterly charming world.”
  • Gamespot (Score 8/10) – ”Astral Chain’s shortcomings don’t overshadow what it does best. It’s an incredible execution of a fresh take on Platinum Games’ foundation, standing among the stylish-action greats. And its own anime-inspired swagger makes fights all the more exhilarating. You’ll come to appreciate the calmer moments in between that add variety and offer a second to relax before jumping back into the superb combat. After 40 hours with Astral Chain, I’m still eager to take on the tougher challenges, and I’ll be grinning from ear to ear as I hit all the right moves, one after the other, while watching it all unfold.”

Release notes for Roger Roger Update for Star Wars Battlefront II

That’s no moon! It’s a fully operational Battlefront II update! Launching today, it adds the Separatist Dreadnought and the Republic Attack Cruiser to the Heroes vs Villains mode, which fans have been slavering for ever since Capital Supremacy was released. Additionally, heroes will regain health when defeating enemies: 20 points for defeating Troopers, and 100 points for taking down another hero. There’s also finally a UI bar indicating enemy heroes’ stamina.

”Beware, Viceroy. The Federation has gone too far this time.”

Capital ship interiors are changing too, and now “you must first capture one of two available Command Posts located on the ship. If you succeed in that, your team will gain an additional 5 minutes and can now open fire on the enemy target” to destroy the capital ship. The phases are now based on timers rather than tickets.

The notes also mention ‘contextual spawning’ for Capital Supremacy so you can spawn at any captured Command Posts, including those currently contested as long as your team currently controls it. There will also be more B1 Battle Droids appearing across all 4 classes: Pilot, Jungle and Training.

Check out the full Roger Roger Update & Release Notes post for more.

Game Spotlight - The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan

Things are not what they appear to be

The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan (Supermassive Games – PC (Reviewed On), PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Release Date: August 30th 2019

Man of Medan, the first instalment in Supermassive Games’ The Dark Pictures Anthology is an atmospheric multiplayer horror game that’s pretty much exactly like a scary movie night with friends. Inspired by the structure of short stories by authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Dark Pictures Anthology will eventually grow into a collection of standalone horror games. Man of Medan kicks off the ambitious series with a short and creepy tale, balancing its focus on the relationship between characters with the revelations of its plot.

The opens as a couple of US Army soldiers drunkenly finish their shore leave before heading back to their ship, a huge WW2 cargo vessel. Once the ship is out on the open sea, strange and unexplained events unfold, sealing the fate everyone on board before the story turns to the present day in the South Pacific, where four young Americans are preparing to go on a dive.

We’re quickly introduced to Alex, his younger brother, Brad; Alex’s girlfriend, Julia; and her brother, Conrad – all looking forward to their diving trip and enjoying a few beers along the way. We also meet Fliss, the captain of the boat that’ll take the group out to their diving spot. This being a horror story, hings soon start to go pear-shaped, and after a storm conveniently erupts, the group finds themselves aboard that old WW2 cargo ship, stalked by whatever horrors still remain aboard.

If you’re familiar with Supermassive Games’ previous teen horror title Until Dawn, you’ll recognize a lot of the same mechanics, tailored for this new story. Choices are displayed on a compass, giving players three options, responding with your heart, your mind, or simply saying nothing at all.

You’ll also discover ‘Secrets’ in the form of items strewn around the ship, providing more information about the crew and the ship that help you piece the story together. Framed photos of nautical scenes will also unlock ‘Premonitions’ which reveal a snippet of a potential outcome your choices might lead you towards.

Furthermore, you can check the status of the relationship between the different characters and see all the choices you have made using the ‘Bearings’ tab. ‘The Curator’, a sort of narrator or observer existing outside the story itself will also appear to comment on your decisions so far.

Be brave and keep your ship together

While you can play through the story alone, Man of Medan also features two multiplayer modes: Shared Story enables online co-op for two players, while Movie Night supports couch co-op for up to five players. After finishing the Theatrical Cut of the story, players who pre-ordered the game will unlock the Curator’s Cut, which enables an alternative path through the story.

In this version, you’ll play through the same events as different characters, unlock different scenes, alter relationships, and – just like in the Theatrical Cut – you’ll be able to save or sacrifice as many of the characters as you want. The Curator’s Cut will also be unlocked for free for all customers later this year.

Man of Medan does a good job kicking off The Dark Pictures Anthology and has left me feeling even more excited for what Supermassive Games has in store for us next. This is the developer’s most successful horror experience so far, despite its short length. Thanks to the solid plot and characters, the game turns its short horror story into a remarkable interactive experience that stays just as chilling and engaging through multiple playthroughs.

News Bits

Aladdin and The Lion King HD remasters confirmed

Originally leaked by retailer GameStop, it is now confirmed that Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King will be remastered for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch. Launching on October 29th, the remasters will run at 1080p and feature various enhancements as well as bug fixes. The original versions will also be included.

Astral Chain hides a 16-bit mini-game for some ‘mental recovery’

All that police action and investigation in Astral Chain can take it out of you, so why not chill out with a 16-bit distraction? “…you can feel some nice nostalgia while you recover mentally from the all the fighting. I hope you’ll try to find it,” game director Takahisa Taura teased on Twitter. PlatinumGames’ latest action title is out for Switch this week, on August 30th.

Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

The director of Disney’s Aladdin game for Genesis/MegaDrive went on to make which beloved game?

Answer: Earthworm Jim!

As we reported today, the Megadrive/Genesis versions of Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King games are being remastered and will arrive on PC and consoles later this year. The Lion King was very much in the same style as the graphically groundbreaking Aladdin, which was directed by Dave Perry – the founder of Shiny Entertainment, most famous for Earthworm Jim.

Sadly, Perry and Shiny didn’t have anything to do with popular platformers Crash Bandicoot and Rayman, but there is a connection to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: After Earthworm Jim, Shiny ever so slightly revolutionized the third-person shooter with MDK. BioWare developed MDK2, since Shiny was too busy, which is a rare case of BioWare working on someone else’s videogame IP.

Weekly Giveaway

Mable & The Wood!

Time for another great giveaway! We have 5 Steam keys to give away, and all you have to do to enter the sweepstakes is to follow us on Twitter and on our Facebook page, and we will choose five random followers who will each receive a Mable & The Wood Steam key! It couldn’t be any easier.

Find out more about our giveaway here.