Bard Rock Cafe Episode 30: Born on the Bayou
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It might not have been E3, but we’ve still had some nice announcements. Once again, with the ongoing global pandemic and other problems in the world, we’ve had several notable delays in 2022 releases and beyond. Even so, there’s been a lot of intrigue for the games announced lately. I still had a nice weekend watching events such as the Wholesome fest, PC Gaming Show, and the Microsoft/Bethesda event.
This was originally going to be just talking about the Starfield reveal, but there’s one more game I wanted to chat about today. There are too many showcases to discuss them all, but I’m excited about all of these, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for them.
Well, I was disappointed to see it got delayed into 2023, but that might be a good thing. Games released before they’re really ready to have often resulted in disastrous, broken launches, and Bethesda really cannot afford any more of these. Between the atrocious mess that was Fallout 76, the rough issues of Fallout 4 and the Creation Club’s implementation and all the Skyrim remasters without much substance, it’s safe to say Bethesda has struggled in recent years. The 2021 Microsoft buyout will hopefully be a return to form, and Starfield finally revealed some gameplay footage during the joint Microsoft/Bethesda Showcase last weekend.
Being the largest game of the weekend, you can imagine it’s gathered a ton of press, both positive and negative. This is one title Bethesda cannot afford to screw up. I’d even go as far to say it could end the studio if it’s another Fallout 76 level launch.
It’s good to have some healthy skepticism, and I think everyone is looking at Starfield with some concerns. Even so, this is Bethesda’s first original IP in many years. It’s not Fallout or Elder Scrolls, but I can’t help but look at the game with some excitement. The gameplay reveal showed resource gathering, large, decorated interiors and space cities, snippets of a narrative involving deadly weapons and space pirates, settlement building, modular spaceships which can be flown in real-time, space combat, and a large number of systems and planets to explore. The total number of systems and planets was something like a hundred/thousand. All of these sound cool and enjoyable, but will this transfer into a stunning game that transforms the scene? Maybe. All of these have the potential to be fantastic. The pieces are all there, but you can have great ingredients only to turn out to have a final product that gives you food poisoning.
Bethesda is capable of great stories and writing. We’ve seen it before. Even the lukewarm stories of Skyrim and Fallout 4 had some shining bright spots, even if they struggled to rise to the challenge. I expect this to be a large, usual Bethesda title: large spaceships with interiors, tons of customization, big open world with plenty to do. The usual open world, you know. A lot of people are burnt out with open-world games for failing to innovate and adding bloat. Starfield…might have the same problems with that. So many planets will unlikely have all curated content. I expect plenty of procedural content and radiant systems. I got No Man’s Sky comparisons, which can be good or bad.
Yeah, I’m taking this with a grain of salt, but I’m not going to doom something without it releasing. I’m concerned with how performance will be, the combat doesn’t feel very advanced from past games, and Bethesda being so, I know it’ll be buggy. You know what? I’m still excited. I still look forward to seeing it. There’s been too much negativity in the world as of late. People are skeptical and critical of Starfield. To be honest, I don’t blame them given Bethesda and Todd Howard’s recent track record. I am too. We’ve had plenty of AAA disappointments. But I’m still going to hope and believe. I won’t know until it’s in our hands to play. Don’t bury someone who hasn’t even died yet. That’s all I’m saying.
I was a big fan of Ion Land’s Cloudpunk. Releasing in 2020, it was a delivery driving simulator in an impressive world of great immersion and fantastic sound design, even if it felt patchy with the writing and voice acting. Despite its shortcomings, I enjoyed every minute of it and it became one of my Top 10 titles for that year. I still boot the game up every once in a while, just for an excuse to drive around in first person, listening to the rain and the great soundtrack. It’s an immersive experience and you can pick the game up pretty cheap these days.
In 2021, Ion Lands released an expansion for Cloudpunk called City of Ghosts: you can read some of my impressions on that DLC here by clicking the link. Even if I haven’t finished City of Ghosts yet, I’ve been impressed by the improvements it made over the original. It’s probably the better game, with stronger visual design, improved car interiors, and best of all, a story which I enjoyed more. It’s a solid piece of DLC. If you’ve played the original game and want to try more inside their world, check it out.
While I enjoyed both Cloudpunk and its expansion, it made me want a life simulator set in their designed world even more. They lacked detailed interaction and dynamic world design, which is a problem with many cyberpunk games. Even if I eventually loved Cyberpunk 2077, the relative lack of interaction in Night City was a major downside. I wanted more meaningful activities in a living world. Ion Lands is working on something like that, with a slice-of-life sim called Nivalis. Over the weekend we finally got a look at the game in some more detail, though there’s no release date just yet.
It looks gorgeous. Just look how nice this looks! It looks like a management sim: pick a business and grow it in the first person. That’s pretty cool; many management games follow an isometric design, so having it like an RPG is great, and it’ll go well with the cyberpunk setting. I dig how the game feels like living in a cyberpunk city, something we haven’t really received. Once again, as much as I enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 (I’ve played it more than any other story-based game except Skyrim), Nivalis looks like it could scratch the itch I wanted more from CD Projekt Red.
I hope it accomplishes that. I imagine there’s a lot of attention over Nivalis and they have the opportunity to make it big. Cloudpunk was a decent slice and a solid first attempt by a dev with hefty ambitions. If they pull it off, create a world with plenty to do, and have a game that runs well (Cloudpunk had some optimization issues I wish were improved), there’s potential for Nivalis to be incredible.