Firmament Wars

Cyan Worlds, the developer behind seminal puzzle adventure Myst, has launched a Kickstarter to fund development of its new VR game Firmament.

Those with decently honed memory skills might recall that Firmament was initially unveiled in March last year, whereupon it was referred to as a "new steampunk adventure". That early reveal was accompanied by a surprisingly lengthy "teaser" trailer, suggesting that development was reasonably well underway.

Twelve months on, and Firmament has re-emerged on Kickstarter for a bout of crowdfunding, with an estimated release of July 2020 - assuming it meets its goal. And while there's not a huge amount of new information to be gleaned beyond what was teased last year, Cyan has clarified a few points and shared some snippets of new gameplay footage to woo potential backers.

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EA has confirmed that around 350 of its employees are being laid off across its marketing, publishing, and operations divisions. The publisher says it is also "ramping down" its presence in Japan and Russia as it seeks "different ways to serve our players in those markets".

In an email obtained by Kotaku, EA CEO Andrew Wilson addressed today's layoffs, telling employees that while the publisher had "a vision to be the World's Greatest Games Company... If we're honest with ourselves, we're not there right now. We have work to do with our games, our player relationships, and our business."

"As we look across a changing world around us, it's clear that we must change with it," an EA spokesperson said in a separate statement. "We're making deliberate moves to better deliver on our commitments, refine our organisation and meet the needs of our players."

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With the sheer volume of sales across the likes of Humble Store, Fanatical and Green Man Gaming, it can be difficult to keep up with all the best PC digital deals available at any one time. To take a bit of the stress out of it, though, here's a concise round-up of the top bundle bargains and digital discounts on the world wide web right now.

To start off, let us take you to Green Man Gaming where you can get No Man's Sky for 16 for the next 24 hours. The ambitious space exploration sim has gone through one heck of a resurgence after its wobbly launch and is definitely worth another blast if you bailed on it after the inital reception.

Remember, you may need to log in to see these specific prices on GMG.

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Dotemu has released the first gameplay trailer for Streets of Rage 4.

In the video we see Axel and Blaze beating up loads of goons - at points juggling enemies with attacks performed at the same time. In one section, Axel uppercuts his opponent into the air for Blaze, who leaps off the shoulders of her stunned opponent, to land a flying kick. The pair then keep the unlucky foe juggled with jabs. It's pretty slick.

The beat 'em up is a co-production from Lizardcube, the developer of 2017's Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap remake, Guard Crush Games, maker of Streets of Fury, and publisher Dotemu (Wonder Boy, Windjammers), under an official licence from Sega. Specifically, Lizardcube is working on the new hand-drawn visuals you can see in the video.

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"In a sense," says Alex Hutchinson, creative director of Journey to the Savage Planet, "this is a game for middle-aged people." And in an instant, I'm sold.

"I want a game I can finish, I want a game that doesn't take a thousand hours, I want a game that kind of reminds me of the Sega blue skies stuff, that I feel happy turning it on instead of being miserable and weighed down by things I don't understand unless I've put in 100 hours. I don't want an infinite game! I want it to finish!"

Alex is playing to the room, for sure - in this case, the room being a cozy hotel suite just on the outskirts of this year's GDC, the audience a couple of men like myself with more than a dash of grey in their facial hair - but good god has he got a point. And he certainly knows what he's talking about, having come from the world of triple-A development, alongside many of his team at the 25-strong Typhoon Studios, who count Assassin's Creed, Far Cry and Army of Two - Army of Two! - among their past triumphs.

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Even if you did happen to be in Finland, Remedy Games is still off the beaten track. You need to drive out of Helsinki along snow-ploughed roads, across a bridge, over a frozen lake where people play ice hockey and on to the next town, a place named Espoo, to eventually find the studio's new office. The building, a brutalist pile of concrete and glass, was built for a private medical firm. Now, a recently-added machine in the entrance takes a mugshot of your face and immediately emails it to the staff member you're meeting. "You have to do this," I'm told, "since some fans managed to get in".

I'm sort of impressed they made the journey, but once you're within Remedy's walls you're reminded why they made their trip. The studio has cultivated an offbeat personality over the years - the same personality it poured into cult hits like Alan Wake and Max Payne. There's a sauna in the basement, I'm told, as we pass a row of seaside deck chairs on a landing facing south, ready for the few minutes of bright sunlight Finland gets once in a while. And now more than ever, I think, Remedy embodies a sense of proud independence - worn outwardly through the ubiquitous staff hoodies which act like an optional uniform, and inwardly by the bodies which toiled for five long years building too-ambitious TV-series-slash-video-game hybrid Quantum Break for Microsoft. More on that, though, in a bit.

It's not too much of a narrative leap to see this slightly weird building in the virtual one I'm here to explore - its cavernous concrete spaces and branching corridors, cramped staircases and side-rooms. You probably know Control's backstory already: lead character Jesse Faden has inherited the directorship of a secret US government agency designed to investigate supernatural phenomena, and which has unwisely set up shop within the eye of the paranormal storm. It's here, within the Bureau of Control's headquarters, Jesse will prove she's the right person for the job, rid the building of possessed former agents, and uncover answers to why things have gotten so weird. But weird, I'm happy to say, is a lot of fun.

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We're two years away from a new Lord of the Rings game starring everyone's favourite tricksy hobbit.

German developer Daedalic last night confirmed it's working on The Lord of the Rings: Gollum for launch on PC and unnamed consoles in 2021.

The game's story acts as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, and shows what Gollum was up to before he began following Frodo, eating raw fish and dissing chips.

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Mortal Kombat 11

NetherRealm has confirmed Lui Kang, Kung Lao and Jax for Mortal Kombat 11.

All three characters can be seen in the story trailer, below.

The video shows how past and present characters from the series meet up and sometimes fight each other. We see past and present Jax go at it, for example - in front of their daughter Jacqui. Awkward!

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Duck Game

If you're looking for bird-themed games on Switch this year, you're certainly not going to be stuck with a poultry amount. Along with Untitled Goose Game (arriving later in 2019), we can now look forward to Duck Game, which is due to land for Nintendo Switch on 2nd May. Now we just need one more duck game, and then we can officially call the 2019 Switch schedule "duck duck goose".

Duck Game, developed by Landon Podbielski and published by Adult Swim Games, was originally released on the Ouya in 2014 (an odd choice) and later for PC and PlayStation 4. As the name implies, it's a 2D action game featuring a bunch of ducks - except they're all fighting each other with "shotguns, net guns, mind control rays, saxophones, magnet guns, and pretty much anything else a duck could use as a weapon".

With a couch co-op option of up to four players, it seems like a pretty good fit for the Switch, and I can see myself pulling it out as a party game. There's also online multiplayer and a map editor, meaning you can share your custom-made levels over the world wide webbed. Or you can just go it alone with the single player challenge mode.

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Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice

In games, as in the fridge, there is cheese and there is cheese. I had a chance to reflect on this over the last few days. Partly because my daughter has finally found a video game she really loves, and partly because I have been struggling to make progress in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Let's tackle this in reverse order. Sekiro is a wonderful game. As ever, when it comes to From Software's output, I am savouring the early moments, knowing that there is a point coming up when the shutter will descend and I will be locked out forever. I love the stuff From does: the elliptical storytelling, the circuitous, ox-bow maps, the precision - above all else - of the pacing, as you move this little lens of progress over the surface of a complex and evocative world. But sooner or later a boss will turn up and end my fun for good. I am still stuck just past Blight Town in Dark Souls, facing a hill that reminds me of the inside of a very old person's ear, with a spider-lady waiting at the summit to do me in. With Sekiro, I am advancing through the burning remains of an estate with a boss ahead of me who... Well, let's just say it's not going to plan.

But at least I made it this far. And I made it because of cheesing. Cheesing, I gather, is the act of making progress in a game through unfair or semi-illegal or otherwise not strictly legitimate means, often using cleverness to bypass something that has been designed to hinge on skill. In Sekiro I cheesed my way pass an early mini-boss, the Chained Ogre (and if you're early in the game, the rest of this paragraph probably counts as a spoiler), and I did this first by back-stabbing him after he'd gone searching for me and then turned for home, and then by standing on a ledge he couldn't get to and hitting him on the head for what felt like forever.

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