Happy Tuesday everyone, and welcome to a post Elden Ring world. For a lot of folks, Elden Ring is probably going to be THE game that they play in 2022, and I don’t blame them. That game is all I think about, the thought of playing anything else fills me with such existential dread because the whole time I’m thinking, “why am I playing this? I could be making progress in Elden Ring“. However, Elden Ring isn’t the end of video games, of course, the new releases keep on chugging and our wallets keep on shrinking, but I don’t even care.
Gran Turismo 7 (PS4/PS5) – Releases Mar. 4th
Developed by: Polyphony Digital
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Since its 1997 debut in Japan, the Gran Turismo series has been giving auto enthusiasts their wildest racing dreams. There aren’t many other racing games out there that let you take a 1993 Honda Civic and turn it into a super car, racing machine, and that is precisely the appeal of Gran Turismo. This series knows what it means to make driving fun (except maybe the license part…), celebrating the joy of movement and the thrill of competition. Music is also a big part of the series, and Gran Turismo are to masterful at putting powerful tunes into their games and helping you get into that racing mindset, from artists like Lenny Kravitz, Garbage, The Cardigans, Less Than Jake and, of course, The Smashing Pumpkins. The opening to Gran Turismo 4 with the juxtaposition of Moon Over The Castle with Van Halen’s Panama is still one of my favorite opening sequences in any video game ever, period. I’m very excited for Gran Turismo 7, it’s been far too long since I’ve felt the virtual asphalt under my tires.
Elex 2 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 1st
Developed by: Piranha Bytes
Published by: THQ Nordic
A big, open world RPG in a grim dark setting, hmmm, I think we already have one of those to play right now. Sorry, Elex 2, your mid-budget title just came out at the wrong time (and is getting eviscerated by critics), better luck with part 3.
FAR: Changing Tides (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 1st
Developed by: Okomotive
Published by: Frontier Foundry
Try to survive in a world were everything is covered in water, or just play Elden Ring.
Shadow Warrior 3 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 1st
Developed by: Flying Wild Hog
Published by: Devolver Digital
This game looks like if someone took a Mt. Dew can and turned it into a video game. It’s probably really sweet, but you’re going to feel terrible afterwards.
A Musical Story (Android/iOS/PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 2nd
Developed by: Glee-Cheese Studio
Published by: Digerati
If you couldn’t tell by reading this column every week, music is really important to me. In terms of entertainment I consume, music and video games are neck and neck with their effect on my joyfulness. It’s always very exciting, then, when I see my two favorite things mash up, so A Musical Story might be the thing to actually pull me away from Elden Ring for a couple hours.
Babylon’s Fall (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Mar. 3rd
Developed by: Platinum Games
Published by: Square Enix
Normally I’d be over the moon for a new title from Platinum Games but Elden Ring and Gran Turismo 7 have pushed this to the back burner for me. Plus the game is heavily reliant on online multiplayer co-op, and that’s a huge turn off as well. I hate doing this to Platinum, but I’m going to have to wait until this goes on sale during Black Friday for $7.99.
Triangle Strategy (Switch) – Releases Feb. 4th
Developed by: Square Enix/Artdink
Published by: Square Enix
I think the video game companies hate me. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, they go and drop a several hours long RPG in my lap. I guess I can play this on my undocked Switch while my wife (Borat voice) watches Home Town on Discovery+, now only $4.99 a month!
Risk of Rain 2: Survivors of the Void (PC) – Releases Mar. 1st
Rouge-like, survival game Risk of Rain 2 is releasing some DLC. I think I have this on PC.
Ghostrunner: Project_Hel (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 3rd
This new Cyberpunk 2077 patch looks great. What’s that? Oh, it’s not Cyberpunk 2077? Are you sure?
We’ve got a lot of extra little goodies this week, including a cute looking Conan the Barbarian game, a point & click adventure about finding your pants, and a Fall Guys rip-off from Bandai Namco.
- Conan Chop Chop (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 1st
- Little Orpheus (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 1st
- Pants Quest (PC) – Releases Mar. 1st
- Beholder 3 (PC) – Releases Mar. 3rd
- Gunborg: Dark Matters (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Mar. 4th
- Survival Quiz City (PC) – Releases Mar. 4th
- What Lies in the Multiverse (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 4th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Mass Effect 3 – Released Mar. 6th, 2012: Wiki Link
The Mass Effect franchise began on a major high note, gaining massive support from both players and critics, but by the time its third entry came out, that same fanbase would tear it to shreds, forcing developer Bioware to do the unthinkable; change the ending of their game. While I’m sure the story of Mass Effect 3’s development is interesting, I’m sure most of us only remember this game for how poorly received its ending was, and how Bioware, with its tail between its legs, patched in a whole new ending to placate a group of angry fans on the internet.
First off let’s talk quickly about the Mass Effect franchise. Released in 2007, the first Mass Effect was originally an Xbox exclusive developed by Bioware and published by Microsoft. Carrying on the tradition of their previous RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, Mass Effect was a sprawling epic that had players zooming around the galaxy, visiting hostile planets where they would search for resources and engage various enemies in combat. It was a big success and drew the attention of EA who would purchase Bioware and get them started on their follow-up Mass Effect 2. Bigger and better in just about every way possible, ME2 is a masterpiece of science fiction and one of the greatest video games of all time, telling a gripping story of personal identity and xenophobia (a common theme among all three games). It stripped out some of the more technical aspects of the first game, focusing more on action, but by the time the third game arrived, Mass Effect 3, some of those earlier elements from part 1 were added back in, making it the most well rounded game in the series but, as you’ll learn, the whole thing kind of falls flat in the end.
Part of what made Mass Effect so engaging as a series was that your character, as well as the actions they made, carried through all three games. Entire worlds and species were dependent on your actions, so with all of that going on in the story you would expect the ending to matter. Well, it didn’t. I’m going to spoil the ending of Mass Effect 3, please stop reading if you want to see it for yourself. After arriving on a war torn Earth, Commander Shepard fights through the streets of London, trying to stop the Reapers from destroying the galaxy. In the commotion he is teleported to the Citadel where he meets an AI that looks like a small girl. The AI tells Shepard that she created the Reapers as a way to eliminate intelligent life when they get too smart. Intelligent life will, eventually, create artificial life, and then that artificial life will destroy natural life. It’s a big cycle, with the reapers wiping out all life and then starting things over. The AI concedes that she will lose to Shepard and his allies and presents him with three choices; one, destroy the Reapers and all artificial life, killing a close ally as well as the entire Geth race. Two, copy Shepard’s personality and influence onto the AI, allowing “him” to control the Reapers, turning them into an intergalactic peace force. Finally, three, re-code the DNA of all organic and inorganic beings to be half natural and half artificial, thus achieving balance and harmony among the races.
In classic Mass Effect style you are presented a choice, you can take the Paragon path, the Renegade path, or a neutral/diplomatic path. However, unlike earlier choices that have clear consequences, all three actions lead to the same exact ending. Shepard dies from a mortal wound sustained in the fight on Earth; the thing you decide to do sends out a massive wave of energy across the galaxy, destroying all of the mass relays; the Reapers are stopped; and the Normandy, your ship, crashes on an uncharted planet. When I finished the game I was, well, perplexed, but not angry. You don’t get any kind of closure or update on the fate of your crew mates, some of which you’ve been hanging out with over all three games (what’s up Garrus), nor do you get any update on the countless side characters, alien races, and planets you’ve encountered along the way. Some players thought this was a breach of customer trust and false advertising, even going as far as to petition the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Bioware. People weren’t just disappointed in this ending, they were angry.
Despite receiving glowing reviews across the board from all gaming outlets and (most) fans, it started to become clear, very quickly, that the ending was troubling a lot of people. Bioware’s Aaryn Flynn recalls that he’d hear people praise the game but then say the ending wasn’t the best. Those whines would eventually turn into more openly negative criticism, snowballing until it reached a point where people were saying Mass Effect 3 had the worst ending of all time. The studio heads at Bioware were aware of the situation and told fans they were “listening to the feedback” and that they heard them all “loud & clear” (my favorite corporate speak phrase). Sure enough, on April 5th, Bioware announced that they were going to “fix” the ending of Mass Effect 3 and give fans the closure they wanted. This, of course, led to even MORE backlash because now the artist (Bioware) was caving into the demands of the public.
On June 26th, 2012, the new ending was released. Called The Extended Cut, this new ending added in small, differing cutscenes that would play after you make your final choice. Further, an epilogue was created that showed off the fates of various characters based on your actions over the previous three games, as well as your EMS score. Lastly, a fourth option was added in, allowing players to attack the AI, however this would result in an immediate victory for the Reapers and end the game. Response to the new ending was mixed. The most vocal critics of the original ending all seemed satisfied over the changes, and the gaming press was similarly happy with it, however the “art shouldn’t be changed” crowd were still incensed that Bioware would do something like this. They feared that it set a bad precedent that if fans yell loud enough then artists would be forced to alter their true vision. I won’t lie though, I think the fans were right on this one. As a fan of the ME series I was completely let down by the ending and lack of closure, especially after going through probably 200 hours of game play across three games. To see all my choices make the game come to the same conclusion felt cheap. I wasn’t going to scream that they make a new ending to please me, as far as I was concerned they put out a terrible ending and I was content to live my life.
I’m glad they decided to rework the ending to make it more fleshed out, the series deserved better than what it originally got. Cynically, you could almost think that Bioware flubbed the ending on purpose because they weren’t given time to finish it. Getting the game out by a predetermined is always the number one priority for major game publishers and their shareholders. How else was EA stock supposed to go up ten points? By having a bad ending, the team could then take however much time they needed to get their “true” ending in without having to hit some arbitrary date. This was also in the era when the single player game was considered a dying genre, so a ton of focus was put into ME3’s online multiplayer mode. Are either of these true? Who knows. Sadly, I think this whole ending debacle soured people on the entire ME franchise, and its reboot, Andromeda, was released to an overwhelmingly negative response. Another reboot is slated to arrive in the next few years, continuing the story of some of the original trilogy’s characters. Will people go back? Will you?
Fatal Frame (PS2) – Released Mar. 8th, 2002: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: 40 Days and 40 Nights – Starring Josh Hartnett and Shannon Sossamon
Notable Album Release: Coheed and Cambria – The Second Stage Turbine Blade
Six years after the release of Resident Evil, the survival horror genre had really exploded. Notable rival Silent Hill had just released it’s masterpiece of a sequel, the game Clock Tower saw the genre pushed into a more terrifying direction, and other imitators were making impressions both good and bad. Designer Makoto Shibata, who had just worked on Deception, saw the success of the first Silent Hill and wanted to make a game that was equally as scary. Taking inspiration from a recurring dream of being terrorized by ghosts, Shibata and the team from Deception came up with the idea of a house populated with malevolent spirits, calling the game Fatal Frame. Their idea was that they could use the ghosts to cause players to not just fear what they could see on the screen, but also fear what they couldn’t see off screen, as ghosts can move freely around and remain unseen. The game’s composer and sound director took this idea to heart when creating the music and sounds for the game, opting to find a way to create “3d sound” by playing around with audio channels and volume.
To really push the sense of dread, Shibata initially wanted to give the player no type of offensive weapon. Instead, players would use a flashlight to kind of make the ghosts go away, making traversing the mansion very treacherous. However, the team started to wonder if the game couldn’t be improved with combat. At first Shibata was against the idea, but seeing the weapon the team chose, an antique camera, made him change his mind. Yes, Fatal Frame is unique among its peers due to its unorthodox choice of weapon, an antique German camera obscura. As players would move around the old mansion they would, at times, be attacked by angry ghosts. Switching from third person to first person, players would point the camera lens at the ghosts and take their picture. Damage to the ghosts are minimal when they are far away, making close combat your best option, however it also leaves you more vulnerable to attack. It’s yet another thing that makes Fatal Frame extremely terrifying, a brilliant move.
Released first in Japan (where it was known as Zero), the game was a bit of a let down, selling only 42k copies over its life span. When the game hit the U.S. and Europe (called Project Zero across the pond) it too fell a bit flat. However, later in the year an American adaptation of the novel The Ring came out, kickstarting a major trend in movies and games that centered on Japanese horror. One of the titles that saw an uptick in interest, yep, Fatal Frame (a November release on Xbox helped too). Critics were mostly positive towards the game, noting that the game was incredibly tense due to the atmosphere and use of the camera obscura for combat. Critics though the graphics were a bit ugly, and that the game relied on a few too many horror tropes, but the positive aspects of the game more than made up for its shortcomings. Two more sequels would come out on the PS2, with a fourth game appearing on the Wii (in Japan only), and a fifth entry on the Wii U and Switch. I remember playing Fatal Frame when it came out, sitting in my living room in the pitch black darkness, and being absolutely petrified with fright. If you’ve never experienced the terror of Fatal Frame then please find a way to do so. The original game is available digitally on the PS3, I can’t recommend it enough.
G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor (NES) – Released Mar. 1992: Wiki Link
Yo, Joe! I loved G.I. Joe as a kid, even going so far as to choose a huge playset over a copy of the video game Blaster Master. By March of 1992, however, I was turning eleven, I didn’t have time for “kid stuff”, so I probably turned my nose up at G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor, but I probably shouldn’t have. Developed by a company called KID (who would later go on create a slew of visual novels), The Atlantis Factor was a sequel to their earlier G.I. Joe video game, both of which received high marks from critics. The Atlantis Factor is a side scrolling, platforming game in which players control one of the Joe’s as they try to thwart Cobra Commander’s plan to take over the world by using magic from Atlantis, or something. The game is brutally difficult, as was the norm back then, and I can’t imagine how anyone would have beaten this without the use of save states that emulators so kindly offer. I don’t really have much to say about this; there’s no info on its development and it has seemingly been forgotten by time. Can you get it today? Hell no, this is a licensed game form the NES era, you’ll be lucky to find it in a retro shop for less than fifty bucks (a sealed copy on eBay is priced at four grand), so just stick to emulation. Trust me, you’ll need the save states.