It's the end of the first year of the month, and some of the Etch Play team are looking back at the games we've been playing, and at the goings on in the games industry so far in 2023.
Fire Emblem Engage
This month there is only one game taking over my life and that's Fire Emblem Engage! Engage came out on the 20th of January, after making me wait months and months (quite rude frankly) and now after over a week with it, I can honestly say I'm having a blast.
Having only played Three Houses and Three Hopes so far, I was intrigued to hear that Engage would in some ways be going back to basics, with less focus on social aspects and more on tactical real-time battles. So far I'm really enjoying it - the cadence of story beat > fight > regroup at your castle and so on is really satisfying. I love going back to the Somniel to chill with my troops, do some fishing and get everyone's loadout exactly how I want it before heading back into the epic storyline.
Speaking of the story, there have been some great moments so far (I'm in chapter 13), with wonderfully animated dramatic cutscenes, and while Byleth will probably always be my favourite FE protagonist, Alear's humility and humour is making them a joy to play!
I have a lot of things to say, that others have said much better than I so I will leave you with a great review that made me even more excited about playing.
If you work in tech, you've probably noticed one big recurring theme in January: Layoffs.
Tens of thousands of people have been made redundant from big companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon - and unfortunately, the videogames space is feeling this crunch too.
Most notably, Microsoft have laid off 10,000 people, thought to include a large number of Xbox staff. 343 Industries, who currently make Halo, were reportedly among the divisions most affected. Riot Games and Unity have also recently let people go, and in the gaming press, there has been a reduction of staff at Gamespot, Giant Bomb, and the Washington Post.
You can look at these situations in a variety of ways. One way of looking at it is in the context of COVID-19, a period of explosive growth for tech, driven by pandemic behaviours and lockdowns, that now seems to be collapsing as people "return to normal". And on an even broader scale, many will look at the longer term growth of industries like gaming, and see this wave of job losses as a relatively minor correction, in the grand scheme of things. Tech is still growing, overall, and so is the games industry.
Whatever the reasoning, or your views, it seems a significant shift from the state of play just a few months ago - when candidates and employees held huge power, because talent was in such high demand.
We've likely not seen the last of these redundancies, as we head deeper into global recession. Many companies are making cuts despite massive profits, mostly to convince shareholders that their money is being spent as efficiently as possible.
Microsoft may live to regret scaling back on Xbox, as 2023 is a crucial year in their ongoing battle with Sony's PlayStation 5. On the software front, Square Enix recently published Forspoken as a PS5 console exclusive, while Xbox revealed (and immediately launched) a new title called Hi-Fi Rush last Wednesday.
Back at the start of 2023, all those long January days ago, I bought Hob: The Definitive Edition in the Nintendo Switch sale for the princely sum of £3.59. Whilst my gaming platform of choice is PC, the frequency of sales on the Nintendo eShop means that if you’re not in a hurry to play a game immediately, it’s well worth popping it on your wishlist and waiting to see what you could pick it up for.
Originally developed by Runic Games for PC and PS4, Hob: The Definitive Edition is a vibrant, suspenseful action-adventure game set in a stunning and brutal world in disarray. Panic Button Games were responsible for porting the game to Nintendo Switch and did a great job of simplifying the UI and prioritising performance (I’ve only noticed the game briefly getting a little choppy once or twice).
Probably the most impressive thing about the game is the world itself. Trees, grass and lush vegetation on the surface, with machinery and cogs underground. That machinery springs to life when you solve puzzles or unlock the next area of the map, moving huge parts of the scenery in such a satisfying way.
I haven’t finished Hob: The Definitive Edition yet but I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen so far and the particularly chill experience. Would highly recommend.
DualSense Edge Controller
Being what I'd call a competitive gamer, not in the sense of joining competitions but generally playing fast-paced multiplayer games, there is one thing that is a must, to allow you to compete with our PC friends - a good controller. Thanks to the massive movement in the game industry we all take cross-play for granted, but all control methods are not created equal.
When playing games like Call of Duty and Apex Legends, milliseconds really count, so there are countless things you can do to get the edge on your opponents. From things like botched trigger stop creations, to buying massively overpriced non-native controllers that seem to last a couple months.
Xbox launched their answer with the Elite Controller, but being a PlayStation boy, I was super stoked to get my hands on the new PlayStation DualSense Edge controller this month. Wow, did Sony deliver! I'm talking interchangeable back buttons, interchangeable thumb sticks, adaptive trigger stops... And best of all, removable analog stick modules, to save you from the dreaded stick drift. The controller even comes with extra function buttons, allowing for changing of profiles on the fly, and creating multiple profile to suit your game needs. Whether it's altering the dead-zone of the triggers, or altering how the analogue registers your input. This controller is insane, and the build quality is top notch!
Although the £209 price point is steep, this is aimed at the people who want to take their gaming to an above average level. For me, this is a must for FPS games and evens the playing field between console and PC.
I can't wait to see what custom parts hit the market, over the course of time, to make this controller even better! Big up Sony for hearing us out and really delivering.
The Last of Us
We've spoken a lot across our live show and in previous roundups about the growing popularity of videogames being adapted into movies and TV shows. The latest to hit the screens is an adaption of Naughty Dog's, The Last of Us which finally premiered in mid January.
There was a lot of anticipation for the series, with the game, The Last of Us: Part 1 winning countless awards and topping many a Game of the Year lists in 2013. A feat that was repeated by The Last of Us: Part 2 in 2021. And, so far so good for the TV adaption. The reviews have been pouring in and they're incredibly positive. Rotten Tomatoes has this 96% amongst critics and 94% for the audience (at time of writing)... Not too shabby.
The viewing figures are also incredibly positive. In a world where ratings are typically not what they used to be (what with streaming, and just way more choice of things to watch), HBO reported over 10 million viewers across episode 1 and 2, and 18 million total views after 1 week of availability (On Demand). In fact The Last of Us set a record for HBO for the the largest jump in viewership from episode 1 to episode 2,increasing by 22%.
As someone who has never played the game, I for one am really enjoying it so far, and it seems that both players of the game, and non players like me have taken really well to it. It shouldn't be underestimated how hard that can be to do, especially when the original material is held in such high regard. As I say, I haven't played the game, but having seen the first two episodes, and hearing so many people about this making them want to dive back into the game, it's making me really want to check it out. Which, is exactly the outcome that Sony will have been wanting.
Bravo to everyone involved in the adaptation... I can't wait to watch more!
More Etch Play
If you enjoyed this roundup, why not check out the rest of our blog for previous editions, our 2022 games of the year, and plenty of articles full of game marketing tips. If video is more your style then head over to the Etch Play YouTube channel where you'll find industry interviews, marketing discussions and good old gameplay.