Rumors of my alien abduction were greatly exaggerated.
I was, in fact, camping! It was a lovely time, and I finished a couple of books courtesy of my Kindle Fire, nestled beside a bonfire, eating fire-roasted chicken drumsticks. It felt a bit Final Fantasy XV, except far less melodramatic and none of us were wearing leather. And we weren’t en route to get me hitched to a faraway lady. And the food wasn’t quite as good. And nobody took any pictures. And you know, it was actually nothing like Final Fantasy XV.
What’s up this week? Well, do you want to be Merlin’s hand? Perhaps a trippy traipse through memorable art is more your style? We’ve also got the conception of a lad named Jin, a druidic conflict in my very own homeland, a twofer mystery misadventure, and last but not least, my favorite science fiction video game trilogy on the Citadel.
Ready when you are, Shepard.
The Hand of Merlin (Early Access) – May 11th (Windows)
Most retellings paint the story of Arthurian Legend in broad fantasy strokes befitting the fragmented source material. At first glance, I figured The Hand of Merlin was more of the same. Surprisingly, it’s not. There’s a neat wrinkle in this version, a wrinkle that involves a sci-fi coat of paint. All throughout the cosmos, every world has its own King Arthur, its own Camelot, its own Guinevere, and more. In each instance, Arthur is chosen from among the populace because of their personal prowess. From what I’ve gathered, balancing all these worlds isn’t easy, and when dark forces conspire to do customarily villainous things, poor Merlin is trapped for eons in a dank dungeon. Not the cool kind of dank, either. That’s where you come in. Help the old lad out by exploring multiple realms in this roguelike strategy RPG with delicious horror infusions. The Hand of Merlin won’t be in its completed state for 4-6 months, but you can get a taste for its hybrid fantasy/sci-fi self this week.
Fire: Ungh’s Quest – May 12th (Switch)
Fire made its debut back in 2015 for Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, and a long-lost pal called the Wii U. While I haven’t played it before, I hear-tell that Daedalic Entertainment’s quirky-looking gem is a charming gig. The game also apparently has some truly tough puzzles that’ll make you feel just as stumped as, well, the main character appears to be at least 90% of the time that he’s on-screen. (Call it the “caveman aesthetic.” It’s a bit rude to the hard-working and industrious folk who actively populated the world way back when, but then, this is a game about being a hard-working and industrious caveman, so I suppose it passes.) Doubtless aware that their original game’s title was too deft and direct, Daedalic Entertainment is back with Fire: Ungh’s Quest, out this week on the Wii U’s far more popular successor. As with the previous version, your task is to journey through the Stone Age in search of — natch — fire. Inside a volcano? Away you go. Into the innards of an ailing dinosaur? Of course. Across time itself? Duh. You’re going boldly. Ungh’s Quest contains exactly as much dialogue and written text as the original, which is to say, none, so if you’re overloaded with a visual novel backlog, I cannot think of a stronger in-between recommendation.
Jin Conception – May 12th (Switch, Windows)
“Jin Conception is a social deduction fantasy thriller turn-based JRPG.” So says Jin Wave Studio LLC, the publisher and developer of this social deduction fantasy thrilled turn-based JRPG. Who am I to doubt them? Eight playable characters sounds like a good chunk of people. Though evidently, two of them vanish without a trace, and three enter a place called Final Layer which I’m guessing is a dark void into a netherworld. But I’d prefer it were the toppings on a Chicago-style pizza instead. Can you imagine? A social deduction fantasy thriller turn-based JRPG set entirely atop a Chicago-style deep dish. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Oh well. But let’s not write off Jin Conception just yet. Multiple endings, tactical trap-laying, a dude with spiky hair, and gameplay mechanics called “Double and Triple Jin Techs” combine to forge at least some cursory interest on my part. Heck, Jin is even an option in the battle UI, right there with Attack, Items, and Status. If your name happens to be Jin, this must be your birthday.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids (DLC) – May 13th (PS4, PS5, XB1, Xbox Series, Windows, Stadia)
Back when the incredibly talented Eva Padilla reviewed Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, she expressed more or less my exact same feelings on the game: stellar audio design, a captivating open world, a strong narrative and welcome accessibility options are all somewhat hampered by the typical bloat and blatant corporate ideology of many of Ubisoft’s heavy hitters. In other words, Valhalla is a pretty good game, and while I’m not quite chomping at the bit to continue Eivor’s story, I’ve still got this first big DLC on the backlog. Wrath of the Druids brings Eivor and friends to the eerie realm called Ireland, which just so happens to be where your humble author can trace nearly their entire ancestry. Back in the days of the Vikings, however, Ireland was kind of a boogeyman island. My ancestors were real party-goers, and if Ubisoft is to be believed, at least a few of them belonged to a cult called the Children of Danu who are up to no good and have started making trouble in the neighborhood. The local Gaelic kings got in one little fight, and their moms got scared, so they said, “we’re enlisting those Norwegians to safeguard us from despair.” Wrath of the Druids is out on everything not called a Nintendo Switch this Thursday.
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind & Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir – May 14th (Switch)
Pop quiz! What was Metroid creator Yoshi Sakamoto’s first writing project, and why was it a duology of murder-mystery games that were never released overseas? Answer #1: Famicom Detective Club. Answer #2: Because sometimes we simply cannot have nice things. But nice things come to those who wait, even if they take as many years as I’ve been alive on earth. Both Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind and Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir are finally headed our way, courtesy of Steins;Gate publisher Mages. Famicom Detective Club is the granddaddy to whom many investigative visual novels owe their allegiance; we’re talking about games from the late eighties with heaps of dialogue and the options to Ask, Examine, Take, Show, and Go available at the bottom of the screen at all times. It’s a blast from the past in every regard, but Mages has gone the extra (and highly appreciated) mile and remade these games from the ground up with modern visuals, crisp music, and voiced dialogue. You can grab them individually for $34.99 or purchase them as a bundle for $59.99. That’s a fairly hefty price even for the remakes of such old games, so it’s more than understandable if you’re electing to wait for reviews on this one. But if all pans out, I’ll certainly be adding these to my collection.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – May 14th (PS4, XB1, Windows)
OK, Quinton. Deep breaths. This is RPGs Coming This Week. You don’t need to type an essay. You want to write an essay, but you don’t need to, and your readers will probably appreciate your restraint.
Fine, fine, fine, self. I won’t type an essay about Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, the remaster of Commander Shepard’s three-game quest to stop the nefarious Reapers from raining genocide upon the inhabitants of a scattered and sociopolitically diverse Milky Way galaxy. I won’t regale you with thoughts about my favorite characters in this sprawling and well-written cast, nor will I geek out about the fact that I fell in love with the Mass Effect universe at first blush and thanked the heavens for finally giving me the video game equivalent of Star Trek‘s prolific television presence. I’ll even refrain from detailing how, back in early 2008, I was on the brink of leaving the gaming world behind, but Mass Effect drew me back in big-time. I even eventually worked a stint for BioWare as a forum moderator and convention organizer. Oh, and that experience is pivotal to my eventual career hop into games journalism.
No, I won’t mention any of that. This isn’t about me. It’s about Mass Effect. And Mass Effect 2. And Mass Effect 3. Also known as “the one with the vintage vibe,” “the one with the best playable cast in gaming history,” and “the one with two epic arc climaxes followed by a third that’s been picked apart enough to give The Last Jedi a run for its money.” This is about the customizable Commander Shepard, played to perfection by either Jennifer Hale or Mark Meer — your choice — and the special bonds they build with those who answer the call and join the crew of the Normandy. This is about pulse-pounding combat that infuses conventional shooter fare with Jedi-like “biotics” for a satisfying system that always leaves me pumped. This is about iconic music from Sam Hulick, Jack Wall, and even Clint Mansell.
With news of a new entry on the way that will apparently bring us back to some of the themes of the original trilogy following the mixed reception of 2017’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare couldn’t have picked a better time to give us Legendary Edition. The package comes sporting 4K graphics and all sorts of aesthetic bells and whistles, as well as substantial improvements to the first game’s shakier gameplay aspects and over 40 DLCs built-in. The only thing that can conceivably stop Legendary Edition from becoming the definitive way to relive (or introduce yourself to) Shepard’s journey would be a bevy of bugs not named Rachni. Here’s hoping that’s not the case!
By the way, we’ll have a review of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition in the future. “Please look forward to it.”
You know what? Maybe I have been abducted by aliens. Salarians, asari, quarians, krogan, geth… Mass Effect aliens. The number of paragraphs for my Legendary Edition entry surely seems to testify as such, and the fact that I have to finish up this article and get back to the Normandy posthaste pretty much seals the deal.
I have been abducted by aliens, my comrades-in-arms. But I will return. Catch you next week, fam!