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Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what's ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We'll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!
We’ve got a ton of new looks at PlayStation-bound indie games, a new spinoff Monster Hunter, a Zelda classic that’s coming to the Switch next week, and even a low-key ape anniversary. Aside from the release of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, nearly all of this week’s gaming buzz — including Nintendo’s announcement of an upgraded Switch console — is swirling around stuff that’s coming soon (but isn’t here just yet.)
But sometimes buzz is plenty. True to its word, Sony didn’t use its latest State of Play event this week to tease a first look at the next God of War or dive deeper into the wilds of the upcoming Horizon Forbidden West. But it did leave players with new looks and first announcements for no fewer than 11 games — most from small or independent studios.
Aside from an extended gameplay look at Deathloop and some new info on the PS5 version of Death Stranding (both of which we’ll get to), Sony’s focus this week was all on games that might otherwise come in under the radar. But, as the State of Play highlights we’ve picked out show, they definitely shouldn’t — and now, thanks to Sony’s indie spotlight, they probably won’t.
Moss: Book II
Sony’s cooking up next-level tech for a fully PS5-compatible iteration of its virtual reality hardware, and games like Moss: Book II will be front and center. Developer Polyarc announced the sequel to its 2018 VR game with a new teaser trailer showing off plucky lil’ Quill and her Zelda-like adventures, sword in hand. The studio didn’t offer a firm release date (or advise on whether Book II will come to other VR platforms), but teased that the new game will pick up right from the end of its predecessor, continuing the journey “with the revelation that a winged tyrant leading the Arcane forces has turned its focus on Quill and is now on the hunt for her within the hexed castle where her uncle was held captive,” as Polyarc explained at the PlayStation Blog. Environmental puzzles, new battles against a new batch of enemies, unseen castle areas and more are in store when Moss: Book II arrives for PlayStation VR.
IllFonic revealed all-new IP Arcadegeddon during this week’s event, showcasing a cartoonish, vaguely Fortnite-esque aesthetic in a game that pits hordes of enemies against your customizable hero in both a solo campaign or in a co-op mode that can field up to four players. Arcadegeddon will feature distinct map zones called “Biomes” that offer up an array of varying terrain and enemy natives unique to each one. An early access period to the first three Biomes is already underway for PS5 players ahead of ongoing refinements before the full game launches with five explorable areas sometime next year.
F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch
A stern-looking rabbit veteran exploring a worn-in, steampunky urban landscape — all while at the ready to punch baddies with a giant mechanical fist: That’s the starting point for F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch, a Metroidvania-style 2D platformer/brawler teased in an atmospheric trailer from TiGames. Interspersed with cinematic 3D cutscenes that rope in a whole entourage of animal assistants, protagonist Rayton — a grizzled ex-military type that’s more than a match for your typical cuddly bunny — comes bounding onto the PS5 and PS4 when F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch arrives on Sept. 7.
Jett: The Far Shore
World-building exploration game Jett: The Far Shore was announced last year, but this week’s State of Play marked the first significant look at gameplay footage from the sim-like title that shares a passing visual resemblance (as well as an emphasis on adventuring over combat) to No Man’s Sky. Protagonist Mei, “an interstellar explorer who is part of a team hoping they’ve found a home for their civilization,” teases Jett squad designer Randy Smith, embarks on a mission to locate the source of the strange signal that lured her group of would-be colonists to their mysterious new planet, and she’ll have to scout the terrain for a suitable building spot without damaging the native flora and fauna. With tons of strategic choices framed inside a narrative-fueled quest, Jett: The Far Shore is set to launch on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 sometime later this year.
We love SEGA’s Yakuza series, and the upcoming noir-ish spinoff sequel Lost Judgment, itself a followup to 2018’s Judgment, has all the zany do-anything side diversions of its big video game brother. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio arrived to State of Play with a new gameplay trailer for the action thriller, loaded with open-environment parkour platforming and tons of close-quarters combat in the sometimes-seedy, heavily stylized streets and districts of Japan. A dark new mystery (and loads of goofball side quests to lighten the mood) heads to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One when Lost Judgment debuts on Sept. 24.
While we’re talking martial arts, indie studio Sloclap kicked up a new gameplay trailer for Sifu, the kung fu action game that penalizes every death by forcing your character to start again as an older version of himself. As the new clip shows, getting sloppy can send you on the fast track to a permanent early grave: repeated false moves can advance your youthful hero straight through his 40s and well into his 50s and beyond — all while staring down the same gauntlet of bad guys that wanted to put you in the ground in the first place. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, the new trailer also came with a small bummer at the end: originally announced as a 2021 release, Sifu has been delayed to 2022. “[O]ur top priority is to make the best possible game, a hugely entertaining and polished experience, and we’d rather ask our fans to wait a little longer than planned than release something we’re not totally proud of,” Sloclap explained at the PlayStation Blog. When it does arrive, Sifu will be spinning onto PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Death Stranding Director's Cut
Nothing too new here — just another peek at the upcoming PS5 Director’s Cut of Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima’s epic cross-continental hike to remake a fallen world. Kojima Productions is teasing the PS5 version as “the definitive experience” of the game, “packed with a ton of new content and enhanced gameplay features” built from the ground up for the Director’s Cut. Those include additional weapons, equipment, and vehicles, as well as new storylines set within new gameplay modes and places to explore that weren’t a part of the PS4 original. Walk with Norman Reedus (aka Sam Porter Bridges) once more when Death Stranding Director’s Cut arrives for the PS5 on Sept. 24.
By now we’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect when Deathloop appears as a PlayStation console exclusive this fall. But Bethesda’s Arkane Studios brought a 9-minute reel of all-new gameplay footage to this week’s State of Play for good measure, showing off a meaty slice of time-trapped protagonist Colt in action on a stakeout of Aleksis “The Wolf” Dorsey, just one of the enemies standing between Colt and his release from the mysteriously debauched Isle of Blackreef. Set the clock for Sept. 14, when Deathloop arrives to twist time on PlayStation 5 and PC.
- Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin releases today for Nintendo Switch and PC, bringing a taste of more traditional character progression and RPG grinding as the newest installment in Capcom’s Stories spinoff series. It’s not a main game in the bigger Monster Hunter franchise, and comes with a little less all-out marketing buzz than, say, Monster Hunter Rise received back in March. But don’t let the spinoff status fool you: early reviews already put MH Stories 2 at an eye-catching 81 consensus score at Metacritic. If sinking yourself into a charming RPG tale anchored by Pokémon-like monster bonding and open-world exploration sounds like the perfect escape from an overstimulated video game landscape, nab Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin beginning today for Nintendo Switch and PC.
- The game that marks the start of the entire sprawling Zelda timeline comes back in HD-remastered form next week, and to give fans another reason to play (as if they needed it), Nintendo has just dropped a new trailer for its Switch-optimized version of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Originally built around the motion control setup for the Wii, Skyward Sword is as close to an outlier in the mainline Zelda canon as there is, but it's safe to say that time is quickly drawing to an end as the new version gets set to arrive on July 16. We’ll have lots more to say about Link’s early-days adventure next week, but for now, take a last-minute peek at how Link and Zelda first came together — and brought King Demon Demise to his…demise.
- Link isn’t the only old-school gaming icon getting the upgrade treatment. SEGA teased this week a new look at Sonic Colors Ultimate, a hugely boosted version of the 2010 Sonic Colors that first debuted on the Wii and 3DS. The new trailer shows just how far Sonic’s come in the hi-res graphics department, with side-by-side comparisons between the upcoming game and the older Wii version. Boasting new support for 4K resolution, new character models and textures, and new ways to play (including a lightning-fast “Rival Rush” mode), Sonic Colors Ultimate comes racing onto PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on Sept. 7.
- The supernatural dark side of the Call of Duty franchise is stalking toward a date with the undead next week, when the new Zombies map for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War comes shambling down the streets of Berlin. Black Ops Cold War’s “Mauer Der Toten” Zombies map is set to arrive as a free update for everyone who already owns the base game, and it drops into the hot zone on July 15 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC.
- Ubisoft has big plans for the future of the Assassin’s Creed franchise — but we’re not quite sure yet what they are. In a blog post this week, the studio laid out its early roadmap for “a collaborative, cross-studio structure between Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Quebec that will guide, grow, evolve, and define the overall future of Assassin’s Creed that includes an important upcoming, early-in-development project codenamed Assassin’s Creed Infinity.” Bloomberg reports that Infinity could be an ever-evolving massive online project that merges the multiple timelines and historic locations from previous Assassin’s Creed games, while lending itself to ongoing expansion and updates following the games-as-a-service model. There’s no firm timeline for when Assassin’s Creed Infinity could reveal itself, but Ubisoft said additional details about Infinity, as well as a roadmap for the future of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, are on the way sometime soon.
- ICYMI: It’s not the oft-whispered, higher-horsepower “Switch Pro” that’s fueled the rumor mill for the past several months, but Nintendo revealed this week that a new Switch model is on the way; one that’ll come with a larger OLED screen and enhanced handheld audio for on-the-go play. The Switch OLED model features a 7-inch display (up from the base Switch’s 6.2-inch screen, as well as the 5.5-inch screen on the Switch Lite), and it’s set to release with a new white color scheme on Oct. 8 — the same day, not coincidentally, as the Switch release of Metroid Dread.
- They grow up so fast! Today marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of the Nintendo game that started it all: On July 9, 1981, the Big N released Donkey Kong in its standup arcade form in Japan, launching a gaming craze that would eventually go on to spring Mario into mascot status and spawn an entire family of great ape titles that’ve kept the fates of Mario, Donkey Kong, and Princess Peach intertwined ever since. It’s also the 40th anniversary of Mario in his first incarnation as “Mr. Video” — the name that creator Shigeru Miyamoto fatefully decided, a few years after the plucky plumber made his debut, to switch over to the now-familiar Mario.
As rumors swirl (via VG24/7) over a possible Donkey Kong franchise revival, let’s pause and wish our barrel-tossing monkey menace a proper happy birthday. Here’s to 40 more, big fella!