February Sheds Some Blood as Fantasy Teams Begin to Falter
When we last checked in with fantasy, things were going great for our contestants. The launches of Monster Hunter: World, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Shadow of the Colossus gave Teams Sam, Kei, and Geron an early lead in the competition, while Team PJ narrowly avoided disaster when Red Dead Redemption 2 got delayed to October.
This time around, things haven’t been as lucky. The month of February saw some unfortunate releases that have crippled certain teams right out the gate, while a massive delay puts one team in a particularly precarious spot. Thankfully, a series of release date announcements bring some rays of hope as teams look towards future months.
Here’s all that went down in February.
Despite Wishful Thinking, Metal Gear Survive and Dynasty Warriors 9 Fail to Deliver
When Team Jack selected Metal Gear Survive with the third to last pick in the draft (#38), it did so out of pure necessity. Pickings were decidedly slim at the time, and so Jack made the bold decision to bet on a game he thought many of us were undervaluing. Were we undervaluing Metal Gear Survive at the time? Probably, yes; the thought of Konami ousting the creator of one of the greatest IPs of all time and then continuing on with a zombie game of all possibilities left a sour taste in my mouth then, as it does even now. Still, there was hope that Survive could be something better than the sum of its parts—something stronger than what the public was labeling it as.
Boy, were we right though. With the game sitting at a 61 on Metacritic for PlayStation 4 with 63 critics, the results are in, and they’re not good. Metal Gear Survive was so blatantly bad that, aside from the use of the Fox Engine, it’s hard to fathom that this game shares its name with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. While this is undoubtedly a hurdle for Team Jack to overcome, there’s reason to be hopeful. A 61 isn’t the end of the world, especially considering this was Team Jack’s fifth and weakest pick. There’s still plenty of time to mount a counteroffensive, especially if The Last of Us: Part II indeed releases in 2018.
Team Augustine has less of an excuse. It selected Dynasty Warriors 9 with its 2nd round pick at an eye-poppingly high #12 in the draft. The game is currently carrying a 66 Metacritic on PlayStation 4 with 43 critics. For reference, Shadow of the Colossus didn’t go until #14, and it’s the highest rated release in fantasy to date (92 Metacritic on PS4, 96 critics). Of course, bucking the trend is what Augustine does best, and I sympathize with him losing Anthem so early on in the competition (as league commissioner, I even allowed him to pick an alternate game to replace it with). However, this time it seems as if his boldness and unpredictability got the better of him. I’m pouring one out for ya, Augs.
Detroit: Become Human, Octopath Traveler, and State of Decay 2 Get Dated; Coming Sooner Than You Think
Thankfully for Team Augustine, the rest of its fantasy lineup is looking up. At the beginning of March, Quantic Dream director David Cage announced via PlayStation Blog that Detroit: Become Human will be releasing on May 25. As I attested to during my Paris Games Week 2018 write-up, the game looks phenomenal and plays even better. While a fan of Quantic Dream’s past works, Detroit: Become Human may very well be their most successful attempt at interactive storytelling to date. It will undoubtedly come into play if Team Augustine hopes to bounce back from this month’s setback.
Another game Team Augustine has to look forward to is Octopath Traveler, which officially dropped the ‘Project’ part of its title and got a July 13 release date during the recent 3.8.2018 Nintendo Direct. Again, having played Octopath Traveler by way of its late 2017 demo, I have high hopes it will deliver a unique and satisfying JRPG experience for Switch owners. Square Enix is in need of some fresh new IPs, and Octopath Traveler looks to be the first step towards remedying that situation.
In other news, State of Decay 2 received a release date of May 22 as part of this month’s IGN First feature. Drafted #31 overall by Team Sam with a 4th round pick, State of Decay 2 could end up being a huge boost for a team that is currently rolling high off of Monster Hunter: World. The $30 price point for the game is a little alarming to me; the original State of Decay retailed at $20 with tons of rough edges, and all signs pointed to its sequel being a proper big-budget release. However, that’s not to say it can’t be a great budget-priced adventure, and I look forward to seeing how it performs later this year.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine Releases to Generally Favorable Reception
Mere weeks after its release date was announced, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine launched at the end of February to modest success. While reviews of the games were mixed—some praised its ingenuity and presentation while others blasted its shallow gameplay appeal—the game managed to eke out a positive Metacritic score of 75 on PC with 26 critics.
As a full disclaimer for the sake of honesty and transparency, I contributed one of the reviews making up the current WTWTLW Metacritic score. For those who cry foul, I approached my review of the game exactly as I have for the scores of past reviews I’ve written: with an impartial viewpoint and a desire to communicate both a game’s strengths and its weaknesses to the reader.
With that out of the way, I actually enjoyed my time with Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. It’s an interesting take on the typical narrative-based adventure game, with a kickass bluesy soundtrack to boot. The flaws critics are voicing are fair—the game feels a little thin at times in terms of actual gameplay—but I’m glad to see WTWTLW doing well for both its developers and its publisher.
In terms of fantasy, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine’s release means that Team Genesis is officially off to the races. With Team Genesis’ 75 for WTWTLW resting comfortably between Team Jack’s 61 for Metal Gear Survive and Team Geron’s 92 for Shadow of the Colossus, Team Genesis finds itself firmly in the middle of the pack. Not great, but also not terrible. There’s plenty of time to change that placement (for better or for worse) in the months to come.
Days Gone Delayed to 2019, Our Expectations Gone With It
When Sony insisted on shoving Days Gone down everyone’s throats, not once, but twice, during E3 2016, it was reasonable to expect that the game was deep in development. Bend Studio’s last two projects, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Uncharted: Fight for Fortune, released for PlayStation Vita back in 2012. Nearly three and a half years had passed since Fight for Fortune, so when Days Gone was shown up and running at Sony’s massive press conference, many were wondering if the game would sneak out in 2016.
It wasn’t long after the initial showing that Bend made clear that Days Gone would likely take until 2018 to complete. While that wasn’t particularly hard to fathom at the time—big new IPs often require lengthier development cycles than a sequel to an established franchise—I think most of us assumed Days Gone would release by the end of this year. And yet, just days ago, Sony revealed that Days Gone has been delayed to 2019.
I find this particularly shocking simply because The Last of Us: Part II has been pegged as a 2019 game. Would it really make sense for Sony to push two similarly styled first-party titles in the same year? Does this mean The Last of Us: Part II will indeed make it out this year? Or does it mean that Days Gone is really, really behind schedule and needs all the extra time it can get? I don’t know, but one thing that’s certain is that Days Gone isn’t coming in 2018.
This is bad news for Team PJ, as this delay leaves him a game short heading into the rest of the year. Unlike Team Augustine, which was granted the ability to select a game off of the fantasy waiver wire, Team PJ will need to find a replacement for Days Gone during the E3 2018 portion of the draft. Thankfully, E3 2018 is sure to provide several solid games set for release in Q3/Q4 2018 that PJ can snatch up.
Super Smash Bros. Announced for Switch; Coming in 2018
Case in point? The new Super Smash Bros. game that was just announced during Nintendo’s 3.8.2018 Direct. While it’s still up in the air whether the game is a full-blown Smash 5 or rather an upgraded Smash 4 Deluxe (the evidence is mounting that its a legitimate sequel), the fact remains that a new Smash game is hitting the Switch this year.
Stealth announcements like this are exactly the reasons why we’re doing a second draft after E3. While there are likely to be other massive titles receiving 2018 release dates during E3 (Fire Emblem Switch, anyone?) Smash has easily risen to the top of the most-wanted list going into our E3 2018 draft.
If you recall back during our initial draft, Team Kei was last in the drafting order. As such, Team Kei will have 1st pick when it comes to our special “E3 2018 Round 6,” followed by Teams Genesis, Jack, Augustine, David, Geron, Sam, and PJ (yes, ironically, Team PJ will have the last pick). So for the time being, as long as nothing else changes, Super Smash Bros. is firmly in Team Kei’s grasp.
Into the Breach and Moss Tragically Passed Over
In this month’s edition of Fantasy Phenoms, two new games have been added to Team “I Can’t Believe We Missed These Gems.” Like with January’s picks, the following are some of the all-star games we at The Punished Backlog tragically overlooked during our draft.
Into the Breach, released on February 27, is the follow-up to developer Subset Games’ breakout hit FTL: Faster Than Light. Building upon FTL’s procedurally generated challenges while introducing a brand-new turn-based strategy gameplay system, Into the Breach has captivated critics. It currently has a 90 Metacritic on PC with 35 critics.
Moss, released the same day, is the debut game for developer Polyarc. Heralded for its whimsical storytelling and comfortable VR controls, Moss is quite possibly the first must-have game for PlayStation VR. The game has an 85 Metacritic on PS4 with 50 critics.
Upcoming Fantasy Releases
March is an absolutely packed month for fantasy releases. Team Genesis looks to make a definitive climb up the scoreboard with the release of Kirby Star Allies on March 16 and A Way Out on March 23. Team Sam, meanwhile, looks to cement its lead with the launch of Sea of Thieves on March 20 and MLB The Show 18 on March 27. Team Geron has Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom to look forward to on March 23, while Team Jack looks to dig itself out of an early hole when Far Cry 5 releases March 27.
Looking ahead even further, here’s every confirmed release date from April until the end of the year:
- God of War – April 20 (Team David)
- Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire – May 8 (Team Kei)
- State of Decay 2 – May 22 (Team Sam)
- Detroit: Become Human – May 25 (Team Augustine)
- Vampyr – June 5 (Team Augustine)
- Octopath Traveler – July 13 (Team Augustine)
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – October 26 (Team PJ)
Of particular note, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire got delayed a month. Bummer.
The Current Standings
Without further ado, here’s the current scoreboard:
- 1st) Team Geron: 92
- Shadow of the Colossus – 92 Metacritic (PS4, 96 critics)
- 2nd) Team Sam: 91
- Monster Hunter: World – 90 Metacritic (PS4, 87 critics)
- 3rd) Team Kei: 87
- Dragon Ball FighterZ – 87 Metacritic (PS4, 73 critics)
- 4th) Team David: 83
- Iconoclasts – 83 Metacritic (PS4, 23 critics)
- 5th) Team Genesis: 75
- Where the Water Tastes Like Wine – 75 Metacritic (PC, 26 critics)
- 6th) Team Augustine: 66
- Dynasty Warriors 9 – 66 Metacritic (PS4, 43 critics)
- 7th) Team Jack: 61
- Metal Gear Survive – 61 Metacritic (PS4, 63 critics)
- 8th) Team PJ: 0
As always, thanks for reading! Check back in April for our next fantasy update!