Gaming in 2023: Diablo IV, Spider-Man 2 Release Date, Microsoft's Activision Takeover Woes and More

On this week's Orbital podcast, we look at the biggest game announcements during the Summer Game Fest, PlayStation Showcase, and more.

Gaming in 2023: Diablo IV, Spider-Man 2 Release Date, Microsoft's Activision Takeover Woes and More

Photo Credit: Blizzard

Lilith, Queen of the Succubi in Diablo IV

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We're not even halfway through 2023 and it has already proven to be one of the best years for gaming. The much-awaited title The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom finally dropped, taking us to new heights in the sprawling Sky Islands as we toyed around with resources and crafted immaculate contraptions. Hogwarts Legacy was another noteworthy title, selling over 12 million copies within two weeks of its launch, and dropping us in an ancient iteration of the magic-laden castle to learn about witchcraft and wizardry. The remake engine hasn't stopped either, delivering a gnarly upgrade for Dead Space, a slightly mutated Resident Evil 4, and there's the sequel to the Final Fantasy VII Remake eyeing an early 2024 launch.

June is synonymous with gaming news and the cancellation of E3 had a negligible effect on the rest of the announcements that were made this month. Publishers shifted to an online or digital format to present their showcases, with the biggest presentations coming from Playstation and Xbox. From team blue, we got a 10 minutes of gameplay footage from Spider-Man 2, boasting new villains — the symbiote Venom and Kraven the Hunter. However, developer Insomniac Games stopped short of dropping a release date. It did step up during the Summer Game Fest though, revealing an October 20 launch date, with pre-orders set to go live tomorrow, June 16. Starfield from Xbox and Bethesda was possibly the biggest highlight of them all, dropping a 45-minute-long presentation that touched upon exploration, character creation, skills, and a lot more.

On this week's episode of Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, host Pranav Hegde has a chat with industry insider and Orbital veteran Rishi Alwani and games news and features writer Rahul Chettiyar — that's me — to discuss how 2023 and beyond looks for gaming.

2023 games showcases: The biggest news

We kick off the discussion by asking the guests what their key takeaways were from the recently held showcases. One might argue that the PlayStation Showcase was quite “mediocre,” as it lacked the blockbuster punch the publisher is usually known for delivering. Spider-Man 2 and Final Fantasy XVI were the only PS5 exclusives announced at the event. On the other hand, others might think Sony's showcase was “pretty good,” despite showing a myriad of live-service games. The shown titles did appear to be quite polished — funny, considering you'd normally expect Microsoft to be pushing games-as-a-service titles. Xbox started the year on a sour note, with Redfall receiving dinged reviews, but we were impressed to see they weren't willing to bow down, showing huge single-player entries such as Starfield and Cyberpunk 2077's Phantom Liberty expansion.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Expansion Release Date Set for September 26

The discussion then pivots to the Ubisoft Forward Live event, with The Division: Resurgence being the most notable entry as an upcoming free-to-play mobile game. Rishi has been playing an early build of the game and says that it's “really good!” We're also interested in Assassin's Creed Mirage, as Ubisoft is expected to take a back-to-the-roots approach with its latest instalment. Over the years, players have gotten tired of the open-world RPG approach and so, this new entry focuses on a tighter story set in 9th-century Baghdad and the return of crafty assassinations. XDefiant, the franchise crossover 6v6 shooter is also something we're looking forward to.

Thoughts on Diablo IV

We had a fun time plundering through dungeons in Diablo IV, and we agree on similar issues with the game, starting with the exorbitant pricing, which starts at $69.99 (about Rs. 5,753), alongside the microtransactions marking individual skins with a $25 (about Rs. 2,055) price tag. For now, the in-game shop is implemented in a way that players would never get pinged or coaxed into buying them. However, we're worried that this could change as Season 1 rolls out. A recent interview with Diablo 4 general manager Rod Fergusson gives us a clue that this might happen —he claimed that the in-game shop is touted to have an “intelligence system,” which would recommend items based on what class you're playing. The system is currently in a testing phase and it's unclear how it would impact the game as its expansions and other live-service content start rolling out.

Diablo IV Review: A Devilishly Fun Loot-Fest Set Across the Fires of Hell

On how the Microsoft-Activision deal could impact gamers

If Microsoft's acquisition of Activision-Blizzard goes through, it would adversely affect the consumers, according to Alwani. Xbox is looking to expand content for its Game Pass subscription service, reducing options for gamers who are already suffering from subscription fatigue. It also looks bad from a game preservationist perspective, with gamers being unable to access games on their own term as they could be relegated to digital media that they don't have ownership over. We do note that it could result in cheaper access to games, but its long-term effects are dicey.

Games to look forward to and personal highlights

Alwani had a couple of answers for this, starting with his personal preference which is Dragon's Dogma 2, after which he doubled down on The Division: Resurgence, adding that it's good for the mobile gaming industry — which India undoubtedly is part of. From a professional POV, he was proud of getting his Indo-futuristic battle-royale game Indus some global exposure by launching trailers across London.

I picked a game that wasn't mentioned in any of the recent showcases — Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, from the creators of the award-winning Elden Ring and Dark Souls games. AC6 would be my foray into the mech-crunching franchise and I'm excited to take the slow route and read item descriptions to better understand the larger lore, which is quite reminiscent of Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic Dune. I am worried about the PC port though, as in how its complex controls would translate to a keyboard and mouse setup.

You can listen to all of that in detail and more in our episode by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.

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  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Excellent combat
  • Engaging story
  • Likeable cast of characters
  • Detailed world design
  • Bad
  • Tries to stuff in a lot
  • Lack of a companion system
  • Tedious inventory management
Genre RPG
Platform Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC: Windows
Modes Single-player
Series Wizarding World
PEGI Rating 12+
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Looks and runs great
  • Isaac Clarke isn't silent anymore
  • New side missions and lore
  • Ample save points
  • Fun weapons that encourage a hybrid playstyle
  • Brutal combat
  • More freedom in zero gravity zones
  • Bad
  • A bit on the pricier end
  • Shadows can be too dark
  • Music can be too dramatic at times
Genre Survival horror
Platform PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox Series S/X, PC: Windows
Modes Single-player
Series Dead Space
PEGI Rating 16+
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Looks amazing and is well-optimised
  • Massively improved controls
  • Characters are more suited to the times
  • You can parry incoming attacks now
  • Knife durability adds a sense of resourcefulness
  • Over-the-top action sequences
  • Gory combat
  • Bad
  • Ada Wong's voice acting feels off
  • Shadows can get too dark
  • Some bonus modes have been scrapped
Genre Survival horror
Platform PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox Series S/X, PC: Windows
Modes Single-player
Series Resident Evil
PEGI Rating 18+
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • A faithful Spider-Man story
  • Excellent visuals
  • Kinetic combat
  • Engaging exploration and traversal
  • Attention to side characters, villains
  • Great music and audio design
  • Immersive New York City open world
  • Bad
  • Story pacing suffers at times
  • Risk-averse narrative decisions
  • Short campaign
  • Side activities lack inspiration
Genre Action-Adventure
Platform PlayStation 5 (PS5)
Modes Single-player
Series Marvel’s Spider-Man
PEGI Rating 16+
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Massive scale
  • Immersive side stories
  • Strong role-playing foundation
  • Great art design
  • Satisfying dogfights
  • Bad
  • Extremely slow start
  • Unoriginal main story
  • Robotic animations and voice acting
  • Fast travel-based space exploration
  • Boring on-foot planet exploration
  • Horrible surface map
Genre RPG
Platform Xbox Series S/X, PC: Windows
Modes Single-player
PEGI Rating 18+
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Fun combat and epic Eikon battles
  • Engaging narrative and finely crafted cutscenes
  • Excellent world-building and deep lore
  • Likeable protagonist
  • State-of-the-art visuals
  • Bad
  • Shallow RPG experience
  • Paper-thin crafting, upgrades, exploration
  • Sub-par side quests
  • Lack of customisation
  • Performance issues
Genre RPG
Platform PlayStation 5 (PS5)
Modes Single-player
Series Final Fantasy
PEGI Rating 18+
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Tighter scope
  • Baghdad is dense and lively
  • Stealth is back
  • Effective and clunky combat
  • No icon clutter on map
  • Bad
  • Dull story and characters
  • Stiff voice acting
  • Repetitive, non-challenging gameplay loop
  • Dumb enemy AI
  • Overpowered skill tree
  • Lack of Tool variety
  • Lack of regional diversity in map
Genre Action-Adventure
Platform Amazon Luna, PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC: Windows
Modes Single-player
Series Assassin's Creed
PEGI Rating 18+
  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Looks stunningly gory
  • Diverse class options
  • Skills synergise beautifully with builds
  • Finely-tuned combat
  • Great voice acting
  • Rewarding exploration
  • Satisfying loot system
  • Bad
  • Lacklustre story
  • Tight enemy-scaling
  • Microtransactions
  • Mob fights can get monotonous
  • Side quests feel like checklists
Genre RPG
Platform PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC: Windows
Modes Multiplayer
Series Diablo
PEGI Rating 16+
Comments

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