Episode 17: A Plague Tale: Innocence, Sunless Skies, Death Stranding & Interview With Failbetter Games

INTRO

Welcome to This Week In Video Games Episode 17, my name is Tom Kershaw and this is a podcast all about the world of video games.  This week I’ve been playing A Plague Tale: Innocence and Sunless Skies. Also this week I spoke to Failbetter Games about Sunless Skies and their upcoming Vagabond Update coming June 12th. There’s also news on Death Stranding, Avengers and new Pokemon games. It’s a packed show, so lets get into it.

Welcome to the show everyone. I hope you are well and having a good week. I’m good this week and have had some good time playing some new releases. The video game news cycle is definitely ramping up and you can feel E3 is just around the corner. We had a great trailer released from Death Stranding and a lot of teasers talking about E3. That all kicks off next weekend so it’s an exciting time. I had a chat with Failbetter Games this week, so thank you to Hannah and Toby who took the time to talk to me and we discussed Sunless Skies, and their #loveindies initiative which helps shine the spotlight on indie games getting fans to rate, review and share to help the discoverability of indies games. They also discussed some great advice about getting into the industry and shared some of the games they are playing at the moment – so it’s a great interview. I’ve been playing Sunless Skies too and getting into that which has been fantastic as it’s a different kind of kind to what I’d normally play. Last week we talked about A Plague Tale: Innocence, and I’d heard a lot of good things about the game so I picked that up.

Outside of gaming congratulations go out to Liverpool who won The Champions League last night with a 2-0 win over Spurs. Chelsea also beat Arsenal on Wednesday night 4-1 in the UEFA Cup Final. The Champions League Final was a little flat, but at the end of the day no one’s going to remember the game, ultimately it’s about winning. So Congrats to Liverpool on their 6th European Cup – they certainly look like they are going to be a force domestically and in Europe for some years to come.
That’s enough football chat, let’s get into what I’ve been playing this week with  A Plague Tale: Innocence review.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN PLAYING

A Plague Tale: Innocence Review

A Plague Tale: Innocence is an action-adventure stealth game from Asobo Studios. It’s the story of Amicia and Hugo and they travel through 13th Century France trying to avoid the horrors of The Black Death and the evil Inquisition.

It’s a lovely day to be walking in the forest with your father and your dog. The sun is shining and the light streams through the leaves of the trees while you practice your sling skills under the guidance of your father. You play as Amicia De Rune and your dog picks up a scent of a wild boar drinking water from a stream. A boar sure would make a tasty meal for you and the family, so under the watchful eye of your father, you try to take him down with your sling. Unfortunately, the boar gets away and your dog chases him. Out of your sight, the dog is attacked by something and right before your eyes are dragged underground by some evil.

Amicia makes her way home to tell mother, however, as they are chatting by the window the Inquisiton bursts through the gates and takes father prisoner. They’re looking for Hugo, Amicia’s little brother, and they’ll kill to get him. Mother warns you to hide while the soldiers start searching through your home and here we meet Hugo. He’s a sickly little boy almost unknown to his older sister, but under these dangerous circumstances, they’re going to have to get to trust each other quickly. A Plague Tale: Innocence starts with a bang as Amicia and Hugo have to sneak out of the house and through the gardens past the guards of the Inquisition. It’s a great start and you know you’re going to be in for a good time.

The game is set in 13th Century France and the Black Death is everywhere. This manifests in the form of rat swarms and these are generally very impressive. They take on a life own they own, writhing and biting their way towards you like a ferocious wave of death. The environments are one of the most impressive things about the game. First of all, it’s a beautiful game with detailed environments. There’s no shortage of horrors to be seen as The Back Plague rips through society leaving piles of dead bodies and waves of rats about the place. Those left who are living lead poor, violent lives offering up the danger to Amicia and Hugo. The game has a bleak and dark feel to it through its forests, empty towns and Inquisition sites. The game blends real-world history with minor fantasy elements well.
Rather than an open-world adventure your mostly kept on rails by the narrative being nudged towards the next story point by other characters in the game. The story is the main star of the game with the relationship between Amicia and Hugo taking centre stage. They don’t know each other that well as Hugo was very sick when he was young. However, as you progress through the game the sibling gets to know each other and their relationship is an interesting one. Amicia is given a lot of responsibility early on in her life, as she’s just a child herself, but she has to grow up fast and learn to protect Hugo in a world filled with death.

Stealth gameplay is a big focus in the game as you have to make your way through areas with Hugo. As you make your way through areas you have to clear a path for fragile Hugo, who isn’t capable of looking after himself as he suffers from a strange illness. Like other stealth games of the same genre, you work in partnership with Hugo as he can slip through cracks and small spaces to open doors. Your job is to keep him safe at all costs by holding his hand, keeping him as far away from the horrors of the time and lifting him up over walls where necessary. It’s important to keep out of the eye of the enemy as if you get spotted you get killed pretty quickly. One false move and Amicia and Hugo are done for. Complimenting the stealth mechanics is Amicia’s sling. She can shoot small stones from her sling with effective results. Amicia can also throw stones as they sling is often too loud and can give away your position. As you progress through the game you can level up the sling and move into crafting more advanced weapons and items.

A Plague Tale: Innocence isn’t a difficult game and this is one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. More often that not you are presented with the solution without much effort and as you progress through the game is seems to get easier rather than harder. The visual effects are impressive the first time, but as you progress you’re less impressed as a player and the ‘puzzles’ can get laborious.

One of the main features of A Plague Tale: Innocence is the rats. These are used on a lot of the marketing material and if you’ve heard about the game then you’ve probably seen those rats. They truely are impressive on first sight, but as you see them more and more they can get a little annoying. They certainly look worse than they are. The rats don’t like light and you can repel the disgusting mass with torches and later in the game, Amicia learns more effective alchemy skills. An interesting gameplay mechanic later in the game is the ability to ‘control’ the swarms of rodents by distracting them and leading them into the path of enemies leading to a grizzly end for your foes. As Amicia and Hugo progress more alchemy skills open up offering a small variation in the gameplay. However, puzzle solutions present themselves quickly – often hinted at by the convenient location of an item. The puzzle mechanics and stealth maybe simple, however, the complementary story drives you forward with well acted and scripted dialogue scenes. As you move throughout France you meet other children in similar situations as Amicia and Hugo, helping them out as they go.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is a great story of brother and sister trying to survive in a harsh world. The game looks fantastic, however, the game is fairly straight forward. It feels like an old school game brought into 2019 with modern technology. The narrative is engaging with some heartfelt moment. One of the most enjoyable things about the game was I’d hardly heard of this game before it came out – it was a nice surprise. Much like Amicia holds Hugo’s hand throughout the game, it often feels like the game is holding your hand throughout the world – not letting you get too far away or stay into too much danger. The environment’s bark is a lot worse than it’s a bite. I would recommend playing this game if you like single player narrative-driven stories.

Developer: Asobo Studio
Platforms: PC, Xbox One and PS4
Release date: May 14th 2019, 2019
Final Score    80

Next up I’ve got an interview with Failbetter Games talking about Sunless Skies. I was lucky enough to sit down with Hannah & Toby from Failbetter Games and chat about Sunless Skies, #lloveindies and some advice on getting into the video games industry.

[FAIL BETTER GAMES INTERVIEW]

That was me there talking to Hannah & Toby and thank you once again for talking to us. Next up lets get into my review of Sunless Skies.

Sunless Skies Review

Sunless Skies is the follow up to Sunless Seas and in the world of Fallen London from Failbetter Games. In Sunless Skies you have to stay alive. As part of the crew on a locomotive that’s travelling in space, that’s not an easy thing to do.

The game starts off in fairly bleak circumstances… your Captain is dying, your vehicle is damaged and your crew are hungry. As your Captain dies Sunless Skies teaches you that life is precious when you’re exploring the stars and life outside the locomotive is a dangerous place. It’s now your job to explore, find provisions for the crew and keep the train running.

Death is common in Sunless Skies and with each death comes a new beginning and new opportunities to be a successful captain of the ship. The character creation mode is detailed where you can pick the name, title, background and motives of the captain. You can choose to seek fame, fortune or the truth however that comes later. The first priority is your crew and staying alive in this hostile environment.

Sunless Skies mixes an engaging narrative adventure with a top-down roguelike RPG. As you travel through space you scavenge for loot left behind by other unlucky space travellers and engage the citizens of the floating cities you encounter. Find out the latest in the war effort, learn how to trade and earn money and follow leads. Every port you find there’s a host of interesting characters to speak to, and here is where the game’s ‘loot’ really lives, in the quality of the writing. Whether you meet these characters in a local pub or in the street each person has a unique story to tell. They may test and tease you and it’s your job to tease out the detail whether that be secrets, lies and even murders.

Gameplay switches between engaging conversation, picking up clues with a rich science fiction story to exploring and fighting for survival out there in space. Your locomotive chugs away through space and early on you pick up a gun turret that you can attach to the front of the train to battle potential enemies that you come across. Be careful however as you’re fragile whether that be from enemy attacks or overheating from firing your gun too quickly. The fragile nature of your locomotive adds risk to your adventures and raises the stakes meaning you can’t necessarily charge into battle each time. Taking it slow and picking off your enemies at the right opportunity is the name of the game. There’s something quite unsettling navigating the dark, depths of space to come across an enemy ship or even two warring factions ready to turn on you if you get in their way. Be careful out there!
The writing in Sunless Skies is excellent with branching narratives. The game presents you choices that really mean something. For example, early on in the game when your Captain lays there dying in front of you she desperately asks you to fulfil her dying wish. You have the option to promise blindly, approach the bed and ask her to rest or too slowly back away from a potentially contagious disease. I chose to ask her to rest – and she wasn’t happy. Although I did get a mysterious black box out of it, so it’s all good.

Even though you die a fair amount, all is not lost as experience from your previous Captain is handed down to the new Captain. Each time you play your turn is shaped by the type of Captain you choose at the start (Soldier, Priest, Scholar, Doctor and more) and what motivations and characteristics you set. Each decision you make informs your adventure which gives the game great replay value. If you find the dying hard to stomach, then you can adjust the difficulty settings. However, embracing the transient nature of your captains feels part of the game and one I didn’t want to let go.
Sunless Skies lives in the same universe as it’s predecessor Sunless Seas. Fallen London is a huge, sprawling wasteland. The society in Sunless Skies is built around a clockwork sun with many warring factions at each other throats and after each other’s resources and loot. As you progress through Sunless Skies you can choose to side with different factions, although the lore is deep, complex and sometimes tricky to get your head around. That isn’t a huge criticism; there is a well thought out, detailed world here and understanding the politics of the day is interesting.

Sunless Skies is unique in its delivery of narrative as you travel and battle from port to place. It offers something different to many games out there with witty, funny and intriguing stories. Exploration and battles seem secondary to the delivery of the narrative, so be prepared to read more than the average game. However, it’s great fun and well worth giving a go.
Sunless Skies is out now on PC for £18.99.

Developer: Failbetter Games
Platforms: PC
Release date: January 31st, 2019

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NEWS

Death Stranding Coming November 2019

Death Stranding, the latest game from Hideo Kojima, will be released on November 8th 2019. Kojima had been teasing fans this week saying game info would drop this week, with many expecting a 2020 release date to go alongside new consoles. However, in a surprising move, the game has been announced for this year. A new trailer for the game has been released, which you can watch here.

The description is as follows “Besieged by death’s tide at every turn, Sam Bridges must brave a world utterly transformed by the Death Stranding. Carrying the stranded remnants of the future in his hands, Sam embarks on a journey to reunite the shattered world one step at a time. What is the mystery of the Death Stranding? What will Sam discover on the road ahead? A genre-defining gameplay experience holds these answers and more. Starring Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner.” This could have a knock on effect to other PS4 releases this year with Last Of Us 2 apparently set back until 2020.

  • The release date
  • The gameplay 
  • The quality of the trailer and hype

Avengers Coming To E3 Plus Leaked Details 

Marvel’s Avengers game from Square Enix is coming to E3 2019. Square Enix announced the partnership in 2017 but details have been slim since then. The Avenger’s Twitter account announced the news earlier this week. @Avengers Tune into Square Enix Live E3 2019 for the worldwide reveal of “Marvel’s Avengers”! 🗓️ The event begins June 10th at 6pm PT: http://Sqex.link/e3  #SquareEnixE3 #Reassemble #PlayAvengers Details for the game have been light, however, some details appear to have leaked early.

According to PC Gamer details had been posted on E3’s website saying “Embrace your powers and join key members of the development team at Crystal Dynamics and the creative team at Marvel Games as they talk exclusively about the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers. This is the defining Avengers gaming experience: an epic action-adventure that combines cinematic storytelling with continuous single-player and co-operative gameplay. Moderated by Andrea Rene, assemble in teams up to four players, master extraordinary abilities, customize your heroes to fit your playstyle, and combine powers to defend an ever-expanding world under constant threat.” 

The details have since been taken down. Some details stand out such as “teams of up to four players”, “customize your heroes” and “ever-expanding world”. This sounds a lot like a looter-shooter and Destiny-like. We’ll find out more at E3 during Square Enix’s Press Conference on Monday, June 10th 2019.

Dauntless Has A Great Start With 6 Million Players

Dauntless, the free-to-play hunting game for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation is having notable success since it came out of beta. The game from Phoenix Labs has managed to get 6 million players in its first week.

Since the game released on 21st May Dauntless has doubled it’s players compared to the open beta. Boosted by cross-play features at launch on PS4, Xbox and PC. Phoenix Labs have said 60% of players are working in cross-platform squads with a mix of PlayStation, Xbox and PC players working together to take down the Behemoths.

Check out the review of Dauntless here, or go and download it now and try it for yourself. It’s free after all.

Bungie Outlines Season Of Opulence For Destiny 2

Bungie has released a trailer for the upcoming Season of Opulence. It details new weapons, gear, raid and new six-player activity. The new season is coming June 4th to holders of the Annual Pass in Destiny 2. Originally called Season of [THE REDACTED], The Season Of Opulence is all about uncovering the secrets of the Leviathan. Destiny 2 players have a new season of content to look forward to with the Season Of Opulence. Here are a few things players can get excited about:

The Menagerie – The all new six player activity (with matchmaking). No doubt this will build on previous endgame activities like The Blind Well and Escalation Protocol.

New Raid – The Crown Of SorrowWe don’t know too much about the raid yet other than it’s going to release on day one of the new season, which has left some Destiny players power levelling to get raid ready. With the new raid being released on day one it’s certainly going to make the race to world first interesting.

New Weapons & ArmourA new season brings new opportunities to level up and this time we can choose our gear. As Guardians we can use the Chalice Of Opulence to choose which type of gear we earn from The Menagerie. Ranks are reset in Vanguard, Crucible and Gambit and new pinnacle weapons are there to chase including a new sniper, grenade launcher and bow.

Gameplay updatesBungie has included a feature called Power surge, which will likely help Guardians that have fallen behind get up to light level. Iron Banner returns as well as new exotic weapons and armour. Unfortunately, there are a few nerfs coming too.

Free Summer eventThe Solstice of Heroes is back giving allowing players to celebrate the victories of the past. This includes commemorative gear and the chance to win IRL prizes (last year Bungie gave away a great t-shirt with your gamer tag on it) in Ages Of Triumph.Check out the trailer for the new season. Certainly lots to look forward to there in the Season of Opulence.


No Versus Friends Online In Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 is coming soon, in approximately one month. Press and others have been invited to play the game and the general sense of the game is that it’s looking good. Almost every part of Super Mario Maker has been iterated and improved including gameplay and building tools.

However Nintendo has created some restrictions that have left early-access players disappointed – it seems you can’t play online against friends.
Nintendo revealed in a recent Nintendo Direct players could play against each other and co-op create locally. However, it appears you can’t play online competitively against friends.

Nintendo says that playing against friends could potentially compromise leaderboards. You can only play online against random players rather than set up versus friends. Hopefully, an online versus mode with friends is a feature that Nintendo will add in later down the line post-launch. Amiibo support has also been dropped for Super Mario Maker 2.
It’s a shame these two features won’t be there for launch but Super Mario Maker 2 still looks like it’s going to be a great game. Super Mario Maker 2 is set for release on June 28th 2019 on Nintendo Switch. Pre-orders are open right now, head on over to Nintendo’s website to find out more.

Pokemon Press Conference 2019

The Pokémon Company had their Press Conference 2019 this week and released a whole bunch of news including Pokemon Plus +, Pokemon Sleep, Pokemon Home, Pokemon Masters and a New Detective Pikachu.

Pokemon Sleep
Pokémon Sleep is a new app that uses the amount of time you sleep and the time you wake up to influence gameplay. We don’t yet know how this is going to work, other than players will ‘look forward to waking up everyday’. It was reported that Nintendo was working on somekind of activity monitor and it looks like they are working with the Pokémon Company to roll it out to the masses. They’ve already had huge success with Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game where you catch Pokémon. Related to sleep, The Pokémon Company also announced Snorlax’s will start appearing in Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Plus +
A new device for Pokémon Sleep and Pokémon Go called Pokémon Plus + (pronounced ‘plus plus’). The device will be used to track sleep as well as track your Pokemon in Pokémon Go. The device looks like a Pokeball and sounds like Nintendo’s wearable activity monitoring hardware finally coming to life, with Pokemon branding. Since the success of Pokémon Go, video games, anime, heck… even Detective Pikachu, Nintendo looks like they finally have found a way to market their previously shelved wearable tech.
Pokemon Home
A new cloud service app called Pokémon Home. The aim of Pokémon Home is to have one place where you can manage all your Pokémon. This includes Pokémon Go, Pokémon Bank on 3DS, Pokémon Let’s Go and the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Shield on Nintendo Switch.
The Pokémon say “With Pokémon HOME, Trainers can manage their collection of Pokémon across many of their games. Plus, they can trade with friends or with anyone around the world directly using Pokémon HOME via mobile device. A potential future addition will even allow multiple players in a single location to trade all at once.” Pokémon Home is set to launch early 2020 on iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch.

Pokémon Masters
Is a new mobile game coming to iOS and Android devices later in 2019. The game will allow you to battle some of the iconic trainers of the Pokémon series past. The game is in development with a partnership between The Pokémon Company and DeNA. The Pokemon Company say “A new Pokémon mobile game called Pokémon Masters is on the way for iOS and Android devices from The Pokémon Company and DeNA. Pokémon Masters lets players experience a new type of Pokémon battling on the go, and it features many famous Pokémon Trainers from the long history of Pokémon video games. Gameplay has been optimized for smart devices, allowing anyone to casually pick it up and play.”

Bioware Announces Cataclysm for Anthem

BioWare has announced details of their upcoming Cataclysm event coming to Anthem. Fans of the game have been waiting for updates from BioWare and the team ran a live stream this week talking through what we should expect.

The Cataclysm will be a six week event where players will have access to three new story missions and a brand new area. The new story missions will provide the context for the new Cataclysm area. The objective of the Cataclysm is to squad up with up to four players, earn points and defeat enemies before the timer runs out. Players can then turn in points for new gear that will be available each week during the event.

Players are free to explore the objectives in any order that they want to. The map will be filled with various objectives including some puzzle solving. Some puzzles and objectives will lead to multipliers that increase your score. Each week the Cataclysm will evolve and players will compete to top the leaderboard.

Powerful loot is up for grabs during the event as you cash in your points in Fort Tarsis for “battle chests”. The contents of the boxes will be switched up each week including new weapons, which have yet to be revealed.
The beta servers for the new Cataclysm will be released in the next week or so, however, they’re not going to be available 24/7 with BioWare saying players will be able to join in for a few days at a time so BioWare can test out the features and tweak the power and difficulty.

So far players have been underwhelmed as many were hoping for a ‘raid-like’ experience similar to Destiny. Also, this update won’t address the existing frustrations in the game. There are concerns this activity will be the same repetitive, boring gameplay from free-play.

Contra Anniversary Collection

Konami has revealed via IGN the line up for Contra Anniversary Collection. The collection includes a mix of NES, SNES, Mega Drive, Game Boy and arcade titles. Four of the titles had already been announced and now Contra: Hard Corps, Operation C, Contra (NES) and Probotector have been added to the lineup. The collection also includes a digital book that “provides a comprehensive look into Contra’s history and beginnings”.
The collection includes:

  • Contra (Arcade)
  • Contra (NES)
  • Contra (Famicom)
  • Super Contra (Arcade)
  • Super C (NES)
  • Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)
  • Super Probotector: Alien Rebels (SNES)
  • Contra: Hard Corps (Sega Genesis)
  • Probotector (Sega Mega Drive)
  • Operation C (Game Boy)

This follows up on Konami’s Castlevania Collection released earlier this month (and is currently doing well in the Switch charts).
The Contra Anniversary Collection is coming to Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch this summer.


CHARTS

  1. TEAM SONIC RACING
  2. DAYS GONE
  3. FIFA 19
  4. RAGE 2
  5. RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
  6. TOM CLANCY’S THE DIVISION 2
  7. MORTAL KOMBAT 11
  8. MARIO KART 8 DELUXE
  9. GRAND THEFT AUTO V
  10. FORZA HORIZON 4   

COMING UP 

  • Petoons Party [PS4] – June 3
  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr [PC, PS4, XBO] – June 4
  • Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa (US) [PC, PS4, Switch] – June 4
  • Trover Saves The Universe [PC] – June 4
  • Warhammer: Chaosbane [PC, PS4, XBO] – June 4
  • Hell Let Loose [PC] – June 6
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 [PS4] – June 7
  • Octopath Traveler [PC] – June 7
  • OUTRO 
  • That’s it for this week’s episode. 
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