Driveclub shuts down in 2020

It’s not like everyone couldn’t see this coming, but Driveclub is officially being towed to the great public radio charitable write-off in the sky. You have one year to play it.

The servers for Driveclub, Driveclub VR and Driveclub Bikes all go dark on March 31, 2020. Before then, Aug. 31, 2019, the games and all of their DLC will be delisted from the PlayStation Network Store.

After all this goes down, only the single-player modes will be playable. For a game predicated so much on multiplayer interaction, that ain’t much. And of course, all the social components are no more, too.

Driveclub launched in 2014 but, like many online-dependent games, buckled under the load from a large community at launch. For weeks after its launch, the game was still struggling with features and performance promised in E3 hype reels. Weather effects, for example, didn’t join the game until more than two months after launch. Sony promised a PlayStation Plus edition of the game to subscribers; it took almost a year to deliver it.

Driveclub’s last update came in March 2016 with the final DLC pack for the game. The same day, Sony announced that developer Evolution Studios would be shut down.


Valve Teases New VR Headset, More Info Coming In May

Valve has released the first official image of their upcoming VR headset. Based on the photo and the name of the Steam page, the headset seems to be named The Valve Index.

There isn’t any more info available on the site beyond a date for when Valve will, I assume, share more info about this new piece of VR hardware. If you want to learn more about The Index, keep your eyes peeled for new info in May of this year.

We’ve known for some time that Valve is working on their own VR headset. We also know that Valve is still working on VR games, Gabe Newell recently confirmed this in emails to fans. We also know Valve is planning on releasing advanced controllers that will, presumably, work with this headset.

The biggest rumor that is floating around is that Valve is working on a new Half-Life game that will be released in the future, possibly with this new headset. Of course, until Valve actually tells us what they are making, we don’t know for sure.

But it seems fans won’t have to wait long to find out what Valve has planned.


Swamp Thing Is Coming Out Sooner Than You May Expect, and a Bunch of Other DC Universe Release Dates

Swamp Thing as he appears in Injustice 2.
Image: Warner Bros Interactive

This weekend is WonderCon, which means an opportunity for some exciting new announcements, and yesterday DC Universe dropped a whole bevy of ‘em.

First off, Swamp Thing is set up for a premiere on DC Universe in just a couple of months. The Crystal Reed-led series will premiere on the streaming platform on May 31st, reports Entertainment Weekly. Among others, it’ll feature Andy Bean as scientist Alec Holland, and Derek Mears will play the Swamp Thing himself.

Next up, the second half of Young Justice: Outsiders is slated to hit the service on July 2nd, with the second season of Titans starting up this fall. The animated Harley Quinn series, featuring Kaley Cuoco as Harley, will also debut this fall.

Meanwhile, DC’s ongoing slate of direct-to-DVD animated films seem to be hitting the service the same day as their meatspace versions now, with Justice League vs. The Fatal Five hitting on April 16th. And if you wanted to catch up on Krypton season 1, it’ll be on the platform April 5th. 

For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.


The Elder Scrolls: Blades Is An Impressive Mobile Game With Annoying Chests

The Elder Scrolls: Blades isn’t the full Elder Scrolls experience. Instead, Bethesda has crafted a game that takes some of the key elements of the franchise and reworks them into a portable experience that feels built from the ground up to work on phones. But Blades also brings with it elements of mobile gaming that some fans might find annoying.

First revealed back at E3 2018, The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a mobile phone game that is set in the popular Elder Scrolls universe. Though, to be clear, this isn’t Skyrim on a phone. The experience here is more focused on small quests and managing a town.

The game starts by quickly throwing the player into the world and introducing them to a village which was recently burned down and nearly destroyed. It is up to you, of course, to find missing villagers, get new folks to move in, rebuild shops and homes and bring the settlement back to life. To complete this task, players will have to go exploring dungeons to accomplish simple quests.

In my first few hours with the game, the quests have nearly all involved saving villagers, killing a certain number of baddies or collecting a something or many somethings in a dungeon.

The simple nature of the quests might get stale eventually, but so far I’ve found myself excited to jump back into the game whenever I can find some spare time. The reason I keep coming back is that the basic gameplay loop is really fun and satisfying. As you complete quests and challenges you get more materials that let you improve your village. You have full control over where to build new shops or homes and can even customize them. Watching a village return to life is a neat way to visually show players how much progress they are making.

Also, as you complete quests you earn new weapons, armor, level up and unlock new abilities, passive perks or spells. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, for sure, except the whole experience feels polished in a way most mobile RPGs don’t.

There is no open world to explore. Instead, your town is a hub and dungeons and other areas are smaller levels you explore depending on the quest. Again, some players will find this too simple and paired down. Except, the short quest length and smaller size of the maps feel perfect for a game that you pick up and play for only a few minutes.

For those wondering, in my time with the game, I could close the app mid-quest and when I returned I was right where I left off, making it even easier to sneak a few minutes of adventuring in while at the bus stop.

Visually, Blades is one of the best looking mobile games I’ve played. It looks as good as most Xbox 360 games and honestly nearly as good as Skyrim. Some crappy looking water and weird lighting are the only graphical problems I’ve noticed. Watching a game like this run on my phone is still remarkable and I was happy to see it didn’t instantly kill my battery or make my phone turn into an oven.

Much of what you expect in an Elder Scrolls game is found in Blades. Multiple enemy types, armor, leveling up magic or stamina with each level, unlocking perks, a character creator and even lovely lizardfolk. It’s just been reworked to work better on a phone and a touchscreen.

Maybe the most impressive feature in Blades is that you can play the entire game in portrait or landscape mode. This makes it possible to play Blades with one hand. I found myself using this mode while I watched TV. What’s really remarkable about this feature is that you can switch between either mode whenever you want. Every menu works in both vertical or horizontal. Combat and exploration work in either mode too. I spent more time than I would care to admit rocking my phone back and forth, watching menus shift and icons move. It’s slick.

The controls change depending on which mode you are currently using. When playing in landscape, you control your character using two virtual joysticks. When vertical, you tap on the ground where you want to go and your character moves to that spot. While I prefer moving with two sticks, tapping to move is great for playing with one hand.

The combat in Blades is based on timing when to tap and when to release. You tap the screen and hold down your finger until a circle fills a ring. Time it perfectly and you will land a critical hit. If you are using a shield, a simple tap on the left of the screen brings it up, letting you block. As you level up you can equip new spells and abilities, which are activated by clicking their corresponding icons during combat.

The combat is simple enough that most players won’t get stuck, but there is also enough depth there to allow players to really master it. Like the quests and dungeons; exploration and combat aren’t ripped right out of the bigger games, instead, they feel inspired by them and built to work on a phone.

One element of Blades that will most likely be a deal breaker for some fans is the inclusion of timers to unlock chests. The first time I found a chest I was excited, as I often feel when finding chests in other RPGs. Then I clicked on it, the way to interact with objects in the game, and the chest just popped out of existence. I got nothing. Hmmm. I was confused. Then the game explained that chests are collected in quests and then you unlock them in a menu.

This takes time. Real world time.

Basic chests only take a few minutes or less. But bigger and rarer chests can take hours and hours to unlock. This, as you might expect, can be skipped using in-game gems, which you can buy from a store.

There isn’t any way to spin this chest unlocking process as a positive. The act of opening a chest is supposed to be a joyous moment in an RPG like The Elder Scrolls, except now it’s locked behind a timer. In my time with the game I haven’t been bothered too much by these chest timers as the rest of the game is free and unrestricted to play for as long as you want. Yet, I also understand that many will see chests that take hours to unlock and uninstall the game, which I think is a totally fair reaction.

I’m just more accustomed to how mobile games work and outside of these chest timers, I find the rest of the game to be really open and not very manipulative. If these annoying timers are the cost of getting a high-quality RPG like this on a mobile phone, I’m willing to put up with them. But I understand many won’t.

Another part of Blades that I’ve only barely dug into is The Abyss. This is a large, randomly generated dungeon that will challenge players as they get farther down. As you get deeper into The Abyss, you earn more rewards and loot. Another mode that isn’t available currently in the Early Access release of Blades is PVP. So no idea how that will work or if it is any good.

The Elder Scrolls: Blades isn’t a portable Skyrim. To be fair, that already exists on the Switch. Instead, Blades tries to reimagine the core elements, visuals, and gameplay of The Elder Scrolls games for touchscreens. The result, at least in my first few hours, is mostly successful.

I can now play a large, visually impressive RPG with one hand while eating. Ain’t the future wonderful?


PAX East 2019: Why Monster Hunter-Like Dauntless Is Coming To Epic Games Store Instead Of Steam

Earlier this year, Dauntless developer Phoenix Labs announced it is moving the free-to-play Monster Hunter-like RPG from its own launcher to the Epic Games Store, joining a string of other high-profile games that are skipping Steam for Epic’s new storefront. According to the studio, one of the primary reasons behind the move was Epic’s player-focused philosophy and its experience in offering cross-play and cross-progression between different platforms.

“One of the things that we’re passionate about at Phoenix Labs–and was a part of our vision even before we had chosen to build Dauntless–was finding a way to allow players to play together,” Phoenix Labs co-founder and VP Robin Mayne told GameSpot at PAX East 2019. “And so a part of our strategy for Dauntless has been worldwide servers so you can play with anyone wherever they are.

“And then as we thought about our platform expansion, it was really important for us to fulfill our vision of one Dauntless, which is the ability to play with your friends no matter what platform they are on and no matter where they are. So working with Epic on the Unreal Engine and getting to chat with them about their vision for players as well, we realized it was a really big alignment with our vision for one Dauntless and being able to have people play together, and the ability to come to the Epic Games Store, plus Xbox and PlayStation, and be able to do cross-play so that everyone can play together.”

Mayne also reiterated that Phoenix Labs plans to allow players to play with those on other platforms right from the game’s console launch. “Our plan is full cross-play, full cross-progression, so you have your account that you play on, and you can play with anyone regardless of what platforms they are on. The launch this summer focuses on Epic Games Store, Xbox, and PlayStation. We have Switch in the works as well, and plans for mobile along the way.”

While Phoenix Labs has ambitious cross-play plans for Dauntless, it will ultimately depend on Sony, which has only recently begun taking its first steps into cross-play. For years, the company was reluctant to allow PS4 players to play with those other platforms until it finally made the exception for Epic’s phenomenally popular battle royale game, Fortnite. Since then, however, Sony has only allowed cross-play in one other PS4 game: Rocket League. Microsoft, meanwhile, has been much more welcoming of cross-play and has long pushed for Sony to reconsider its stance.

Dauntless is available now in open beta on PC, with a PS4 and Xbox One launch slated for this summer. We got a chance to play the game with Phoenix Labs at PAX East; in the video above, you can watch us team up with the developers to take down a new ice-themed Behemoth called Boreus. Unlike other monsters thus far, Boreus is able to summon minions, making for a chaotic fight.


The Sega Genesis Mini Is Up For Preorder

In case you missed the news, the SEGA Genesis Mini arrives on September 19 with the same six button controller (my bad, the U.S. version only gets the three button version), 40 games, and a save state function. We still don’t have the full list of games for the U.S. version, but the initial announcements are more than promising:

  • Altered Beast
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Comix Zone
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Ecco the Dolphin
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Shining Force
  • Sonic The Hedgehog
  • Space Harrier II
  • ToeJam & Earl

The console just went up for preorder at Walmart for $80, with two bundled controllers. We don’t yet know if it will be difficult to find like Nintendo’s consoles, or a flop like Sony’s PlayStation Classic, but if you want to be sure to get yours when it comes out, I’d order now.


Sakura Wars rekindles with a western release in 2020

Sega will bring back the Sakura Wars series next year with a PlayStation 4 launch that is bound for the West, too.

“Project Sakura Wars” (a working title) will be just the second game in the franchise launched in this region, and the first one overall since 2005. It follows Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, which launched in 2005 on PlayStation 2. That launched in the West in 2010, along with a port for the Wii.

The newest game will be set in “a romanticized version of 1940s Imperial Tokyo,” 10 years after the events of the last game. The Sakura Wars franchise is a tactical role-playing game (with dating sim and visual novel elements) that began in 1996 with Sakura Wars on Sega CD. Its third and fourth games launched on the much-beloved Dreamcast, but never came west.

The game is due in Spring 2020.


Valve VR device teased and named: The Valve Index

There isn’t much to go on (that’s kind of the nature of a teaser site) but Valve has tossed up an official first look at its VR device and, more importantly, named it: The Valve Index. More information is coming in May.

This is a stand-alone product (Valve had collaborated with HTC on the Vive). Rumors of what Valve’s VR team were up to wafted around in November, with shots of a headset in production and whispers that it would be bundled with the Knuckles EV3 controllers and a Half-Life VR game.

Otherwise, there’s not much to go on even in the way of history. Valve said in February 2017 that it was working on three full-size virtual reality games — which he characterized as longer and more in-depth than previous demo-like games. But then, the following May, writer and VR evangelist Chet Faliszek left the company.

The Verge has more, including a lit-up version of the teaser image that shows a little more detail on the headset.


Frankenstein-inspired The Wanderer is about beauty and childlike wonder

At GDC 2019, I spent some time with representatives of Arte, a Franco-German, government-funded publisher devoted to releasing artistically valuable games that promote culture in its home countries.

One of its most interesting projects is The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature from Parisian developer La Belle Games. It’s an attempt to recreate Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, rather than the stories and movies about “Frankenstein” that have arisen in the intervening two centuries.

“The book isn’t just about the monster that we know from popular culture, but about what it means to be human,” said Arte co-producer Adrien Larouzée. “It’s about what happens when a child’s soul is part of an adult body, and that child doesn’t understand the way the world works.”

The Wanderer is a narrative adventure with a watercolor art style. The young Dr. Frankenstein shows the creature the world. Player choices dictate the creature’s emotional reactions.

Arte is 95 percent funded via entertainment-based taxes in the form of license fees. It has been in business for 25 years, mostly as a PBS-style TV network. Unlike TV and radio public broadcasters in the United States, it does not raise money through funding drives, but it takes limited sponsorship to supplement government funding.

Larouzée said the company is looking to offer support to games that have “meaningful content,” and that speak to European culture. The Wanderer is certainly an artistic project, but it also represents an ideal of European integrity. Shelley, a Briton, conceived the story while traveling in Switzerland.

The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is due out later this year on Nintendo Switch, Windows PC, and mobile devices.


Sega Genesis Mini Revealed, Has 40 Classic Games

Sega has announced the Genesis Mini–or Mega Drive Mini, if you’re in Europe. The compact version of its classic 16-bit console will allow fans to indulge their nostalgia and play a range of old school games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania: Bloodlines, and Gunstar Heroes on modern displays.

The Genesis Mini was revealed as part of Sega’s Fes event, which is taking place in Tokyo, Japan, and is scheduled to launch worldwide on September 19. It will cost $79.99 US/£69.99/€79.99/AUD$139.95 and have 40 games.

The company has confirmed that this list of titles includes Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Space Harrier 2, Shining Force, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, ToeJam & Earl, Comix Zone, Altered Beast, and Gunstar Heroes. Sega has said the remaining games will be “announced intermittently over the coming months.”

The Sega Genesis Mini is based on the Model 1 Genesis, except is approximately 55 percent smaller than its original incarnation, according to Sega. In the box will be the Genesis Mini, two replica three-button USB controllers, one USB to Micro-B power cable, and one HDMI cable. In North America a power adapter will also be included.

The game ports that are on the Genesis Mini were handled by M2, a team that is well known for its work on emulation and re-releases. M2 previously worked on Sega Ages and Sega 3D Classics Collection.

Releasing Mini versions of classic consoles has become something of a trend recently. Nintendo led the way with the NES Classic and the SNES Classic, both of which were received well by critics and went on to be hot commercial items. Sony followed suite with the PlayStation Classic, which wasn’t received as warmly.

For those looking for a more immediate option, and one that offers a few more options, there’s Analogue’s Mega Sg. “While roughly $200 is a lot to spend on a console to play Genesis games, right now, the Mega Sg is the easiest way to get them up and running on a modern TV without sacrificing audio or video quality–the support for Master System and Sega CD games is the icing on the cake,” said Peter Brown in his Mega Sg review.

“Some people will always prefer to go the route of using emulators, and others may only want to play with original hardware and stick to aftermarket mods. But if you are open to the idea of a third-party Genesis console, and you want the peace of mind knowing that it looks and sounds better than the best original console from Sega, there’s no better option on the market than the Mega Sg.”