The Year That Was: July 2013

Platforms: All

July kicked off with the departure of Microsoft’s Don Mattrick to Zynga. Mattrick had overseen the PR disaster which saw Microsoft make more u-turns than a politician, causing consternation in the gaming community as many Xbox fans shifted to Sony’s new console in retaliation. The flip-flopping didn’t end there though, as this month also saw another about-face, this time around self-publishing. Every Xbox One would be a development kit, Microsoft claimed; whether it would win back some of the industry’s goodwill remained to be seen, as indie flag-bearers such as Jonathan Blow and heavyweights like Lorne Lanning had already made their criticisms widely known.

However, the controversy didn’t detract from the influx of quality games hitting the Xbox Marketplace that month. Two very different zombie titles were well-received: State of Decay managed to overcome its graphical deficiencies with a compelling open world, whilst Walking Dead: 400 Days (also on Steam and PSN) provided the perfect point-and-click aperitif to the upcoming main course of Season 2 later in the year.

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Telltale’s DLC provided mini-stories rather than a single narrative - almost all succeeded.

On the PC front, we found Company of Heroes to be a familiar but quality title, whilst Toki Tori 2+ charmed with its cutesy puzzles and an expansion in the form of Civilization V: Brave New World. Sadly, July was an otherwise poor showing for PC-exclusive titles as we reviewed Neverwinter, Rush Bros. and Jack Keane 2, with none of them impressing.

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CoH 2 caused controversy in Russia and was subsequently removed from sale.

More cross-platform goodness arrived in the form of
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, a near-definitive version of the sequel and a stonking retro-refit of
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, whilst the 3DS market was blessed with the superb Animal Crossing: New Leaf. The Vita didn’t fare so well, as Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two did nothing to improve on the already poor Wii version.

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Cuter than a sleepy puppy covered with baby pandas.

In other news, the first screens of the PS4 interface surfaced, whilst Fez creator Phil Fish cancelled his planned sequel and quit the gaming industry after a Twitter spat. Retailers also took some interesting decisions, as Asda stopped selling the Wii U and LoveFilm announced it would stop offering game rentals to new customers. Steam also found itself in hot water in Germany over the lack of resale rights for the owners of its digital software. The implications, once the trial takes place, could be far-reaching. However Germany has historically taken a different path in the interests of consumers compared to more business-focused countries like the US, and there’s no guarantee that any ruling in favour of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations would prompt similar lawsuits from across the globe.

We rounded off the month with a look at our love-hate relationship with Dark Souls, noting how the initially demanding difficulty level gave way to something that was both challenging and rewarding in equal measure, and discussing the importance of the gaming community in helping to uncover all the secrets abundant in this surprisingly detailed game.

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