Big Releases and Big Delays Headline Month of January
Our fantasy gaming league is off to the races! After an exciting draft, the Punished Backlog staff kicked back, relaxed, and watched the madness unfold for the month of January. The results were explosive, to say the least; many heavy-hitters launched last month, and several others were hit with brutal delays.
As part of a new segment I’m calling the “Fantasy Update,” I’ll break down all the big play-by-plays of the past month in fantasy. There’s a lot to unpack with this month’s update, so let’s dive in!
Monster Hunter, Dragon Ball, and Shadow of the Colossus Come Out Swinging
We already knew Monster Hunter: World, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Shadow of the Colossus were going to perform well under the critical lens. They were the #2, #9, and #14 picks of the draft, respectively, after all. That said, seeing these AAA titans launch within a couple days of one another was a sight to behold.
As of the time of writing, MHW (Team Sam) sits with a 91 Metacritic for the PlayStation 4 version of the game, with 73 critics recorded. DBFZ (Team Kei), meanwhile, has an 87 Metacritic on PS4 with 61 critics. SotC (Team Geron) fills out the roster with a 92 Metacritic on PS4 with 85 critics. (As a quick reminder, total number of critics will play a factor in case of a tiebreaker at the end of the fantasy season, which is why we’re keeping track.)
While the season is only just underway—and thus, near impossible to predict—this strong trio of games gives Team Sam, Team Geron, and Team Kei an early lead over the rest of the competition.
Anthem Hit with Massive Delay; Commissioner Steps in with Early Audible
This one is a tough pill to swallow. Just mere days after the draft, Team Augustine got hit with the worst news a team owner could anticipate: Anthem is not only taking longer than expected—it’s being pushed to early 2019.
News of the delay began when Kotaku’s Jason Schreier reported that BioWare is allotting extra time and manpower to Anthem to make sure it meets Electronic Art’s sales and quality expectations. While Schreier’s credibility need not be questioned, we soon got explicit confirmation of the delay by a report from The Wall Street Journal.
Anthem had the potential to be a massive 2018 release with its Destiny-inspired gameplay and patented BioWare storytelling. Unfortunately, however, the game clearly needs more time in the cooker. Under normal circumstances, this would leave Team Augustine with a fat goose egg and the opportunity to claim a replacement game after E3 2018. However, given the proximity of this delay to the initial fantasy draft, the league commissioner (read: me) has decided to allow Team Augustine to make a replacement pickup from this year’s waiver wire.
What did Team Augustine pick? A tried and true staple. A ride or die, if you will. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
Given Augustine’s love for Blizzard and World of Warcraft, this replacement makes total sense. It should position him to not only bounce back from Anthem’s delay, but to thrive thanks to the consistent quality of past WoW expansions. And with Blizzard already opening up pre-purchases for the game and targeting a summer release, odds are this pick is arriving sooner rather than later.
Red Dead Redemption 2 Slips to October
While not as game-changing as Anthem’s delay, Rockstar announced last week that Red Dead Redemption 2 (drafted #1 overall by Team PJ) has been pushed from its spring 2018 window to October 26.
This might not jump out as big fantasy news, and that’s understandable. After all, RDR2 has not been pushed out of 2018, and it now has a legitimate release month and day. Rockstar CEO Strauss Zelnick even insisted during a recent earnings call that he is “confident” the game will make that date.
Still, I can’t help but remain skeptical. Rockstar is notorious for their commitment to quality, even if it means delaying a game multiple times before it finally releases. If October rolls around and the game needs additional polish, I have no doubt in my mind that they’d push it again. And if that happens, Team PJ is the one that takes the hit.
Granted, I do think Red Dead Redemption 2 will hit its date. But I’ll never rule anything out when it comes to a publisher as perfectionist and as non-committal as Rockstar.
Iconoclasts’ Review-Platform Split Leaves Team David in Early Limbo
Rounding out the list of January’s fantasy playmakers was the long-awaited release of Joakim Sandberg’s Iconoclasts. Drafted #36 overall by Team David, Iconoclasts made my list of pickups thanks to an extremely positive play session I had with the game at PAX East 2017.
Scores for Iconoclasts have been a tad lower than what I’d anticipated. The game is currently maintaining an 83 Metacritic on PS4 with 22 critics. On PC, meanwhile, the game is hovering a little higher with an 86 Metacritic and 17 critics.
The fact that reviews are split between PS4 and PC brings an interesting wrinkle to fantasy. For one, sample sizes for both are still relatively small; while the PS4 score is what’s currently being counted for Team David (due to the higher critic number), that could change in the coming weeks. Secondly, since number of critics will determine a tiebreaker scenario, Iconoclasts’ low level of review coverage puts Team David at an early disadvantage.
This could change, mind you. 2015’s Undertale was a game that was initially slow to gain traction; by all indications, it has since been a wild success, both critically and commercially. And while an 83 in Team David’s pocket is hardly something to scoff at, convergence to a mean of 84 or 85 would be hugely helpful in a fantasy league where every point matters. Time will tell all.
Celeste, Subnautica, The Red Strings Club Round Out List of Overlooked Fantasy Stars
The premier debut of Team “I Can’t Believe We Missed These Gems” is also a juicy one. In the month of January, the Punished Backlog staff overlooked several key players that released within mere days of each other.
January 22 saw the release of The Red Strings Club, a cyberpunk adventure revolving around bartending, pottery sculpting, and phone-call impersonating. The game has a solid 81 Metacritic on PC with 36 critics.
The next day, the underwater survival sim Subnautica finally released on PC after being in early access for over three years. So far, the game has earned an even more impressive 87 Metacritic with 27 critics.
Finally, on January 25, indie platformer Celeste took the gaming community by storm with its sharp level design, endearing characters, and beautiful soundtrack. The game has garnered universal acclaim on Metacritic with a 93 score on Nintendo Switch with 25 critics reporting in.
While we wish we could have seen these victories coming, at the end of the day it just means more games for everyone else to enjoy. Can’t argue with that!
Upcoming Fantasy Releases
A couple of big releases are coming up in February. Team Augustine is looking to score big with Dynasty Warriors 9 when it releases February 13. Meanwhile, Team Jack has put its faith in the much maligned Metal Gear Survive, which comes out February 20.
Looking a bit further ahead, March looks set to make some waves. Here’s the full list:
- Kirby Star Allies – March 16 (Team Genesis)
- Sea of Thieves – March 20 (Team Sam)
- A Way Out – March 23 (Team Genesis)
- Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom – March 23 (Team Geron)
- Far Cry 5 – March 27 (Team Jack)
- MLB The Show 18 – March 27 (Team Sam)
In other news, God of War (Team David) has finally received a release date. Look for it on April 20.
The Current Standings
As it stands, the current power-rankings are as follows:
- 1st) Team Geron: 92
- Shadow of the Colossus – 92 Metacritic (PS4, 85 critics)
- 2nd) Team Sam: 91
- Monster Hunter: World – 91 Metacritic (PS4, 73 critics)
- 3rd) Team Kei: 87
- Dragon Ball FighterZ – 87 Metacritic (PS4, 61 critics)
- 4th) Team David: 83
- Iconoclasts – 83 Metacritic (PS4, 22 critics)
- 5th) Team Augustine: 0
- 5th) Team Genesis: 0
- 5th) Team Jack: 0
- 5th) Team PJ: 0
Thanks for reading! Check back in March for our next Fantasy Update!
Author: David Silbert
David is the creator and editor of The Punished Backlog. A recent Penn graduate, David enjoys gaming and writing. Now, he’s combining his passions and doing both at the same time, all from the comfort of his French apartment!
Follow him on Twitter at @David_Silbert to keep up to date with all things The Punished Backlog.