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SYFY WIRE video games

Gaming: Batman Court of Owls buzz; Apple’s Fortnite feud swells to ‘Unreal’ stakes & more

By Benjamin Bullard
Batman in Batman Arkham Origins game

With game studio Warner Bros. Montreal gearing up for a full online panel at this weekend’s DC FanDome, it’s a safe bet that all the speculation and sly, cryptic teasers the developer’s been teasing will all add up to something more than a hazy Bat-signal on a foggy night. But with no official word about what, exactly, that something might be, internet speculation is buzzing over what owl-eyed fans think could point to the first major Batman video game since 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins.

Escalating a series of cryptic teases that date back months, Warner Bros. Montreal shared a social post this week that puts a distinctly owlish logo in fans’ crosshairs. Midway through the brief teaser, an image pops up that comics fans are widely agreeing serves as a visual callout to the Court of Owls, Gotham’s behind-the-scenes cadre of string-pullers who have their origins in the New 52 storyline. Running from 2011 to 2016, The New 52 served as writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s DC relaunch of the Batman comics line, and inserted the Court of Owls as a mysterious shadow group of influencers whose sway over Gotham runs perhaps even deeper than Bruce Wayne’s.

Check out the teaser…and be ready to hit that pause button:

The tweet also directs fans to a “redacted” website — literally, — which, at least so far, offers even fewer clues than the tweet. But all this shadowy marketing has definitely had the intended effect on fans, with DC followers running wild with viral theories about what new chapter for the Caped Crusader Warner Bros. Montreal might be set to reveal this Saturday. Whatever it is, all signs point to the studio’s next video game being Batman-related in some way — so our radar’s definitely up for fresh clues throughout the week, ahead of DC FanDome’s big kickoff this weekend.

The legal feud between Apple and Epic Games has escalated since first erupting late last week, introducing a new wrinkle that, unless resolved, means the stakes could be much higher than Fortnite.

Variety reports that Epic is alleging Apple has gone beyond pulling the Fortnite app from its App Store, and is now also threatening to remove Epic’s access to developer tools for iOS and Mac platforms unless an ongoing dispute over the App Store’s 30 percent take of in-game Fortnite fees can end before Aug. 28.

While that might sound like a dry, behind-the-scenes skirmish for most developers, it’s a move that Epic says could potentially have far-reaching consequences for players. Epic’s Unreal Engine development tool is widely used by everyone from game makers to blockbuster productions like The Mandalorian at Disney+, and losing Apple support for Unreal Engine could mean an abrupt halt to new mobile games — including those developed for the Apple Arcade service itself — that rely on Unreal to create new content.

“The cascading effect of losing ongoing Unreal Engine compatibility will threaten the viability of the engine and disrupt development of a constellation of apps and uses that rely on its graphics to render hundreds of video games, the human brain, Baby Yoda and space flight,” Epic wrote in its court filing, making sure to drive the point home for everyone who doesn’t speak legal-ese.

In an antitrust lawsuit filed last week, Epic is asking Apple to allow Fortnite back onto the App Store, including full accommodation for Epic’s recently-introduced in-game payment method that (until last week) had served as a workaround for bypassing Apple’s 30 percent take of microtransations. The company also asked the court this week to temporarily halt Apple’s new alleged restriction on iOS developer tools, until the lawsuit itself can be resolved. It’s worth noting that Google also has pulled Fortnite from its Google Play Store, though (via The Verge) Unreal Engine remains free to access for Windows developers.

Ghost of Tsushima is getting a sweet, extended-play coda: Sucker Punch and Sony announced this week that a full suite of co-op and story-based gameplay is coming to the game later this year, meaning players’ adventures in 13th-Century Japan don’t have to end when the credits roll after Jin Sakai beats back the invading Mongol horde.

Titled Ghost of Tsushima: Legends, the new online cooperative multiplayer mode will arrive as a free download for anyone who already owns a copy of the fast-selling PS4 exclusive. Billed as a separate experience from Jin’s storyline, the new mode will feature “four warriors who have been built up as legends in stories told by the people of Tsushima,” according to Sucker Punch.

Legends will also lean more heavily into the magical and mystical side of all those mythic tales whispered by Tsushima islanders. Pick from one of four new character classes (Samurai, Hunter, Ronin, and Assassin), and then jump online with 2-4 players for “a series of co-op story missions that escalate in difficulty, building on the foundation of combat from the single-player campaign but with new magical twists that often require careful synchronization with your partner” — including a new class of enemies “with supernatural abilities.”

So far, Sucker Punch is only teasing that the expansion will launch later this year, and there’s no word on whether the game might also be getting a fan-favorite New Game+ feature to add replay value to Jin’s solo journey. That’s okay, though — in a game this massive, there’s still tons of stuff to keep us busy until Ghost of Tsushima: Legends arrives.