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!
Skyrim. Fallout. Wolfenstein. DOOM. The names cascade like a who’s-who list of some of the biggest franchise hits in all of gaming. What do they have in common? They’re all published by Bethesda Softworks, a studio that could probably coast forever on just the brand power of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series alone.
But until the mystery-shrouded sci-fi game Starfield comes along — presumably sometime in the new console generation — there’s only one Bethesda-created original IP in that big-name game lineup, and that’s The Elder Scrolls. Yep, even though Bethesda has put its inimitable stamp on all those franchises, DOOM, Wolfenstein, and even Fallout all existed before Bethesda acquired them and turned its evolving roster of development partners loose to do their thing.
Though Bethesda created The Elder Scrolls from the ground up (all the way back in 1994 with Arena), the transformation the studio brought to the Fallout franchise — starting in 2008 with Fallout 3 — has turned the tongue-in-cheek post-apocalyptic series into a bankable gaming universe. Ripe with humor, mutants, comics, robots, frayed dystopian visions of a wholesome 1950s-era American future that never was, and Vault Boy (one of the most versatile mascots anywhere), Fallout is packed with everything a good AAA franchise needs to make the leap across media platforms. So it’s no surprise, and maybe even a little bit overdue, to finally see the Lone Wanderer wander over to television.
Bethesda and Amazon announced this week that Fallout is getting the TV treatment in a big way, teasing that Westworld show creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are developing a new small-screen sci-fi series set in the land of raiders and super mutants under their Kilter Films production banner. In partnership with Amazon Studios, the new series will be co-produced by Westworld EP Athena Wickham, alongside Bethesda Softworks’ James Altman and Bethesda Game Studios mastermind Todd Howard — probably the closest thing an American game company has to a Shigeru Miyamoto-like creative sensei — as executive producers.
Details about the series are few, but the announcement marks a growing trend of small-screen studios turning gaming franchises over for the crossover treatment — and in the early going, finding success on TV rather than in movie theaters. The breakout success of Sonic notwithstanding, games have been notoriously difficult to adapt into films (just ask Mario). But Netflix scored a huge success last year with its Henry Cavill-led TV adaptation of The Witcher, and has since tapped other game franchises to spin off new series, including a recently-announced Cyberpunk 2077 anime.
Back on the gaming side of the Fallout Nuka-verse, Bethesda has just revealed its newest round of summer updates for Fallout 76, which brings the Brotherhood of Steel to the Appalachian wilds and serves up new challenges for “The Legendary Run,” the current first phase of the game’s 10-week summer season. Check out the trailer here, and head on over to the game’s landing page to stay current on the latest weekly add-ons.
Crucible gets a do-over
Crucible is going back into development for some retooling, following a wide release in May that showed the team-based sci-fi shooter may not have been quite ready to leave its closed testing phase and head out into the wild.
After a month of watching player interest dwindle after peaking at its May 20 launch, Amazon and in-house developer Relentless Studios have decided to pull the game from Steam and rework some of its features to incorporate player feedback, which reportedly hasn’t been overwhelmingly positive.
In a blog post, Relentless team lead Colin Johanson said Crucible will remain in closed beta for the foreseeable future, as the studio works on “map, combat, and system changes to improve the ‘Heart of the Hives’ experience as well as implementing other improvements based on your feedback and what we think the game needs in order to thrive.”
While taking a game out of wide release might seem ill-fated, recent history shows it’s not the end of the world. One of the biggest redemption stories in all of gaming is Square Enix’s complete retooling of its online-only Final Fantasy XIV following a disastrous 2010 release. And other games that saw early criticism — from Destiny, to Star Wars: Battlefront II, to No Man’s Sky — all have won back players’ good will by going back to the drawing board after less-than-stellar launches.
Amazon hasn’t indicated when Crucible might relaunch, but Johanson assured that the studio will be keeping in close contact with beta members to help Relentless “focus on providing the best possible experience for our players as we continue to make the game better.”
– Outriders, the ambitious upcoming co-op sci-fi shooter from Square Enix and developer People Can Fly, is showing off a big new chunk of what to expect when the game arrives later this year. In the second deep-dive video in its Outriders “Broadcast” preview series, the studio dialed in on how quests and missions will be structured, as well as how the game world’s sprawling design corresponds to all the side quest content that’ll roll out after the game lands this December.
Here’s a 10-minute clip that breaks it all down, plus a pair of new screen shots that highlight Outriders’ colorfully unique world:
The video zeroes in on the snowy Eagle Peaks, just one among tons of locations players will visit in Outriders’ larger setting on the planet of Enoch. With Outriders Broadcast episodes rolling out monthly, we’re sure to see much more of Enoch before the game lands later this year as a multi-platform release for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.
– Sony still has a couple of AAA aces up its sleeve before the PS5 arrives, and just in time for players who’ve stalked their way through The Last of Us Part II, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima is creeping up for a date with the PS4 later this month. The new cinematic trailer shows off more new looks at the 13th-Century world where protagonist Jin Sakai will hone his assassin’s skills, though at this point we’ve seen more than enough of this game to know it’ll be a spotlight-stealer when it arrives on July 17.
– We can’t let the week pass without hitting on a couple of the indie game trailers that Sony teased earlier this week while unveiling its new PlayStation Indies Initiative. Of the nine upcoming small-studio games that Sony showed off, two especially seem right up our alley: Creaks, an exploration game from Amanita Design that’s set in a spooky, magical mansion; and Heavenly Bodies, a deep-space sim from 2pt Interactive that makes zero-gravity a central gameplay feature. Check ‘em both out in the trailers above, and catch up here on what Sony’s PS5 indie gaming plans are for the PS5.
– Sometimes a game teaser comes along that wins us over based on looks alone. That’s pretty much the case with Vesper, an upcoming 2D puzzle platformer from Deck13 and Cordens Interactive. Set against an atmospheric backdrop that leans heavily into manipulating light and darkness as a gameplay feature, your lonely little android must stay one step ahead of “merciless machines, to control the power of Light and decide the fate of his race.” Vesper is set to arrive at Steam sometime in 2021.
– We’ll go out this week by pitting the two most headstrong Avengers up against each other once again. Not content to let Tony Stark steal the gaming spotlight with this week’s release of Iron Man VR, Captain America just had to come along and seize some of the attention for the First Avenger himself. As of this week, Fortnite players can drop in on Chapter 2, Season 3 to take the battle royale field decked out in Cap’s classic red, white, & blue armor — a well-timed add-on at the start of the long July 4th weekend.