Microsoft’s Xbox executives opened the Xbox & Bethesda Game Showcase with an interesting wager: everything they planned to show would be coming out in the next 12 months, and not only that, they had actual gameplay footage to share for most of it.
Given how dry the crop of pandemic games has seemed at times, this looked like a great example of restraint. A more realistic counter to all of the “2023s” that Sony was throwing up at its stream. And then you remember two of Xbox’s biggest games, REDFALL and STARFIELD, both fruits of Microsoft’s ZeniMax acquisition, are delayed into next year. And as long as these games come out before next June, no promises were broken. Then things start to feel direr.
Needless to say, hindsight has taken some of the air out of the Xbox balloon. How can Microsoft provide a Netflix for Games (something Netflix is now doing itself) if it can’t hit the sweet spot of dropping something big every month?
The first answer, surprisingly, was making what I imagine was a very expensive deal with Riot Games for all things LEAGUE OF LEGENDS, VALORANT, TEAMFIGHT TACTICS, and more. Xbox will guarantee unlocked characters from all of Riot’s games for Game Pass subscribers, one of the main ways Riot makes money. The other move was bringing three of the most popular PERSONA games to Xbox, PERSONA 3 PORTABLE, PERSONA 4 GOLDEN, and PERSONA 5 ROYAL. Perfect material for the Game Pass back catalog.
Naturally, there were new games that seemed interesting too, but to spare you the full rundown, here’s what Microsoft showed off that was interesting AND playable sooner rather than later.
HIGH ON LIFE
I don’t have the attachment I used to have to the Justin Roiland oeuvre (RICK AND MORTY, etc.), but even I have to appreciate the audacity of Squanch Games’ HIGH ON LIFE. It seems like it has you and a talking gun (several of them) teaming up to rescue humans from being sold to aliens as drugs, with plenty of alien killing along the way. This basically looks like DOOM by way of an Adult Swim cartoon, and honestly, that’s not a bad thing, especially if I can play it for free on Game Pass this October.
Someone finally had the courage to use everything H.R. Giger made for ALIEN, instead of just the stuff Ridley Scott thought made sense for a movie. I can’t say this will be a fun game to play, but it does seem fleshy, slimy, bony, and deeply psychosexual, or at least more so than the average run-around-and-shoot-people experience. SCORN is coming to Xbox Game Pass on October 21st, 2022.
AS DUSK FALLS
AS DUSK FALLS has the potential to be polarizing, not just because of its distinct motion comic art style, but also because of the clear connections its creators have made to prestige television storytelling. The story seems to be drawing on classic crime story beats and American themes, packaged together in UNTIL DAWN-esque branching choices and quick time events.
Having played a preview of AS DUSK FALLS, I can confidently say that the game’s art style isn’t as distracting as it initially appears, as even brilliant in some moments, but whether a majority of Game Pass subscribers feel the same way when the game comes out on July 19th remains to be seen.
Pairing an illuminated manuscript aesthetic with a narrative adventure role-playing game its creators have favorably compared to NIGHT IN THE WOODS, OXENFREE, and MUTAZIONE, it’s hard to not find PENTIMENT compelling. The game, developed by Obsidian Entertainment, has some serious pedigree too, with designers from critical darlings like FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS serving key creative roles. It just seems like nothing I’ve every played before, and coming out in November, it’ll actually mark sort of the start of more regular releases heading into 2023.