Xbox continued to deliver a slow drip of news to gamers Tuesday with an extended presentation following its Sunday showcase. Fans got an update on upcoming delayed titles like “Starfield,” “Redfall” and “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl.” The showcase ended with a video that had a trigger warning for disturbing images and detailed what “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2” developers in Ukraine have been dealing with amid the ongoing war with Russia. Some have taken refuge while still working, while others joined the Ukrainian army, saying they would return to development after the war ends.
Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer acknowledged that Japanese developers don’t always come to Xbox and that the company has been working on adding more games from the country, such as the upcoming Persona titles and an unannounced game that Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima is overseeing.
“He has this real unique thing he wants to do in the game and we said, ‘Okay, let’s go do something together,’ ” Spencer said in a video filmed in Los Angeles.
During the showcase, Bethesda’s senior vice president of global marketing and communications, Pete Hines, explained why the highly anticipated titles “Redfall” and “Starfield” have been delayed from their original 2022 release windows to next year.
“With all the time that goes into a game, it would be foolish to rush it out the door before it’s ready. We have continued to examine how we think about games and making sure that they are going to meet our players’ expectations,” Hines said.
He added, “Obviously the last two years have really challenged us from a development standpoint, how we work now largely remotely while a lot of our folks are not back in the office, and that has an impact. We’ve been thinking about things like release dates and when do we get those out, and how do we make sure we give one out that we actually hit and don’t have to change later.”
“Valheim,” the sprawling Viking survival game from Iron Gate, is coming to Xbox Game Pass early next year with support for cross-platform play.
At the showcase, Hines talked more about “Redfall” from Arkane Studios having a sense of freedom and a stand-alone story that can be played alone or with up to four friends. Then, Hines discussed the upcoming sci-fi RPG “Starfield,” from its 1,000 planets that players can explore, to the ships they can customize.
“There’s a lot of folks who take a lot of different approaches on what does an open world mean. Bethesda Game Studios always pushes themselves to the most freedom and least limitations, where all the items in the world are all real things,” Hines said. “You walk into a store and there’s a bunch of weapons. That’s not just art on a countertop. You can pick those up, you can steal them and run out. You can create chaos. We don’t want to put too many limits on what the player is or isn’t allowed to do.”
The showcase revisited titles already announced, providing slightly more details about what gamers can expect. “As Dusk Falls,” from Interior/Night, an interactive drama where players’ choices can affect story outcomes, is coming on July 19.
“Minecraft Legends” is another title Xbox updated fans on. It’s an action strategy game set in the same universe of “Minecraft” where players now must defeat piglins and “send them back to where they come from,” according to Dennis Ries, executive producer at Mojang. It was created with the help of developer Blackbird Interactive, as Mojang wanted to explore the action strategy genre and sought to collaborate with a company experienced in it.
Xbox also shared more details about “Pentiment,” a narrative murder mystery revealed during Xbox’s Sunday showcase. It’s set in 16th century Bavaria where the player encounters “a series of murders and scandals,” according to Josh Sawyer, Obsidian studio design director.
Sawyer explained that the game’s title refers to an underlying image that’s been painted over, and it could serve as a metaphor for “history being covered and uncovered over time.” The idea for the game came from exploring the social upheaval in Europe during that period, and Sawyer nodded to how the world is undergoing great social change even today.
“Right now, I think we’re maybe more aware than ever that social change is happening constantly and people are always struggling with it,” Sawyer said. “I hope that by looking at people in the past, you can see that even though the setting might be different, and the specific issues might be different, ultimately, we always struggle with social change.”
The showcase ended with a small documentary focused on the struggles the “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2” developers have endured in recent months, followed by a game trailer. “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl” has been delayed to 2023, as those working on it had to flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine. One developer recounted how his cat died in the first week of Russia shelling Ukraine, while another said it was difficult to write violent quests for the game amid an ongoing war.