Critical Path: February 2023 – Highlights for the month!

Here are the key upcoming events and releases to mark in your calendar for February 2023.

DELIVER US MARS

February 2, 2023

Coming in the wake of EA’s Dead Space, Frontier’s first release of the year was another game with an isolated astronaut sent to explore a stricken outpost, only this one a little less fraught with cosmic horror and considerably less bloody in its execution. Set ten years after KeokeN’s own Deliver Us the Moon, the action for the sequel was predictably switched to the Red Planet, which allowed for shimmying across rocks to be added to the protagonists repertoire of moves as they explored Earth’s second closest plenary neighbour in order to help secure the survival of the human race.

YORKSHIRE GAMES FESTIVAL

February 4-10, 2023

Held at the Science and Medium Museum in Bradford, YGF celebrates games culture, design, and production. It hosts both masterclasses and networking events, as well as gameplay and workshops from special industry guests. It is also especially notable for being one of the few festivals in the UK to host both a “Schools Day” and run autism friendly workshops for young people.

STEAM NEXT FEST

February 6-13, 2023

It’s that wonderful time of the year when close to 900 playable demos drop on Steam and then all disappear again before you’ve had time to play any of them. PC Gamer was kind enough to do the maths and apparently had you sat at your PC all week without break, sleep or refreshment, you could perhaps have managed to play every demo if you’d limited your time with each to just twelve minutes. We followed PCG’s advice for about an hour, which was happily just enough time to try out Darkest Dungeon 2, Voidtrain and Extreme Evolution: Drive to Divinity – the latter of which gave Richie such severe Spheres of Chaos flashbacks, that he’s convinced he’s back in the 90s.

GUILDFORD GAMES FESTIVAL

February 10, 2023

A day-long celebration of Guildford’s rich gaming and development history, this year’s Guildford Games Festival was the first since before the pandemic and the organisers were keen to celebrate that fact. As well as speakers from the likes of Supermassive, Hello Games, nDreams, Criterion and Glowmade, there were new awards for the best stand and best cosplay (suitably inspired by Guildford-made games, of course). To lend proceedings more of a party atmosphere, our friends at Manchester’s FORMAT headed southward with a number of local indie devs to help represent the abundance of talent from the North West.

ATOMIC HEART

February 10, 2023

Atomic Heart is the first non-VR title developed by Cyprus based studio Mundfish, and the FPS and RPG mash-up looks rather fantastic. Set in the post-WW2 past of a parallel universe, the game will task players with fighting off failed Soviet Union robots and bio-experiments with a unique assortment of improvised weapons and glove-based superpowers. Those that have Game Pass will be able to play Atomic Heart at no extra cost thanks to a deal negotiated by publisher Focus Entertainment, so there’s very little barrier to entry for those eager to sample the new IP.

PSVR2

February 22, 2023

The press love a good head-to-head when it comes to hardware launches – MCV included – and unless there’s a surprise console refresh in the offing from two or more of the big three, the contenders for this year look to be Sony and Meta. Despite launching their first VR offerings in 2016, it’s fair to say that Meta has stayed the course, releasing a series of headsets over the years where it’s now at the point where its Quest 2 headset is neck-and-neck with the Xbox Series S/X in terms of units sold. That’s a lot of ground for Sony to make up, but with its impressive specs and launch line up, and a paucity of immediate Quest titles and sketchy Quest 3 details, it’s a gap that seems likely to close.

BLOOD BOWL 3

February 23, 2023

Blood Bowl is to the Warhammer Fantasy world what Space Hulk is to the grimdark 40,000 universe: a brilliantly enclosed sideshow that doesn’t require you to read any books or lore to appreciate it. It’s just turn-based gridiron football, essentially, reimagined with orcs, elves, dwarves and rat-folk. Remarkably, developer Cyanide has been making Blood Bowl video games for 20 years (if you include 2004’s Chaos League, which got noticed by Games Workshop for all the wrong reasons before they became the right reasons), with each game following a familiar arc that begins with cries of anguish over release day jank and there being not enough teams, before fans come around and end up playing the game for years on end.

COMPANY OF HEROES 3

February 23, 2023

Five years ago Relic Entertainment released the third in its Dawn of War series and it’s fair to say that things didn’t end up well for that once beloved franchise.  The problem was in trying to fuse elements of real-time strategy and online battle arena together, to the point that we ended up with two decent enough half-games, but not a great whole one. Since then, Relic has turned out Ages of Empires 4, a rather more by-the-numbers affair that without much fanfare helped put the RTS genre back on the map. On that basis we expect the third outing for Relic’s WWII strategy game to push ahead in the same manner. A solid and steady advance, no doubt.

GAMES GROWTH SUMMIT

February 23, 2023

With a list of 27 speakers that include Ian McGregor of Green Man Gaming, Benn Weibe of Safe in Our World, Sarah Jones of Creative England, and the UK’s game industry’s Best Boss (see p. 58), the Games Growth Summit might well be – certainly in the current climate – the most essential one day event in the entire UK calendar. Do yourself a favour and take yourself along to Barclays’ Canary Wharf HQ for some timely enlightenment in matters of finance and banking, PR and marketing, publishing and distribution, accounting and investment, law and tax, and of course, game development.

KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM 2

February 24, 2023

No game rewarded failure quite as spectacularly as the original KSP, which had you designing intricate spaceships in an attempt to get your eponymous critters to where no Kerbal had been before – and hopefully back home again without burning up on re-entry. The game’s unforgiving brutality was brilliantly offset by the charm of the hapless protagonists, an endless supply of mods, and the fact that with science and some trial and error, you would get there in the end. Arriving in early access, KSP2 looks to be very much a case of more of the same, but with a future development trajectory that extends much further than the first game ever did.

LIKE A DRAGON: ISHIN!

February 24, 2023

The long awaited Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! is finally seeing a release outside of Japan in the form of a ground up remake in Unreal Engine 4. Using the best-of-the-best actors and faces from prior Like a Dragon (Yakuza) games like a real-life theatre troupe, the game shows real life historical figure Sakamoto Ryōma (who looks a lot like main series longtime protagonist Kazuma Kiryu) go on an dramatic adventure in Japan’s Bakumatsu years. What does that mean? Swordsmen. You’ll be fighting lots of swordsmen.

DESTINY 2: LIGHTFALL

February 28, 2023

It’s a big month for Destiny 2, as both Lightfall and Season 20 are expected to arrive together. The Lightfall expansion pack takes guardians to a Neptunian city under siege, where they’ll meet the Cloud Striders and join their fight against the Shadow Legion. Bungie has called their next release ‘the end of the Light and Darkness Saga’ in an interview with the PlayStation Blog, so we’re expecting huge payoffs for all those people who have stuck with the first-person shooter space opera.

About Richie Shoemaker

Prior to taking the editorial helm of MCV/DEVELOP Richie spent 20 years shovelling word-coal into the engines of numerous gaming magazines and websites, many of which are now lost beneath the churning waves of progress. If not already obvious, he is partial to the odd nautical metaphor.

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