In this week’s bulletin, we discuss Valhalla (again), Season, the Game Awards, Age of Empires II snowmen-at-arms, Nuketown ’84, Spelunky 1 & 2, Heaven’s Gate, Ancient Cities and a 3D render of the Temple of Solomon!

Viking Questions for Valhalla Director

There has been plenty of discussion about the historical accuracy and the representation of Vikings in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. We don’t really want to meddle in any discussion however (seen as though we’re not experts on Viking and Norse history). However, Jackson Crawford posted an interesting video on his YouTube Channel where he talks with Darby McDevitt, Narrative Director of Valhalla. Crawford is someone who has knowledge about the Norse History, as he is specialized in the Old Norse Language and also consulted Ubisoft. It’s an interesting video, butalso very looooong, just like the game.

Video: Jackson Crawford

PS5 Game Season is all about exploring disappearing cultures

A new console means new games (and we’re not talking about the closed beta of Cyberpunk 2077). Coinciding with the Game Awards, a prime promotional spot, Scavengers Studio announced Season, a third-person story rich exploration game about life. More specifically, about documenting life as it is disappearing. You play the story of a young woman, who bikes through the lands of Season and tries to prevent treasures, cultures and societies from being forgotten. More on Eurogamer and Screenrant or check the PS5 trailer below. No launch date yet, but it will be available on PS5 and PC!

Video: PlayStation Europe

Game of the Year – Game Awards

Last week saw the Game Awards, where The Last of Us II racked up the awards, including the GOTY, Best Narrative, Best Audio Design and Best Direction. Aside from discussions about all the other awards it received, the Best Direction award sparked the most controversy. Over the past years we’ve seen more and more developers having to crunch the last stages of a game. Most recently, CD Projekt Red launched Cyberpunk 2077 after a very heft crunch (and it’s still broken as hell). TLoUII was another game which had quite a big crunch. Having a crunch doesn’t really deserve winning the Best Director category. The same is argued by Kotaku’s Ian Walker. To quote Walker: ‘The Last of Us Part II is a great game, but we shouldn’t praise the conditions under which it was made.’

Image: Naughty Dog / Kotaku

Whilst criticizing TLoUII, Walker points towards another game which should have won the Best Director, mainly because of the dev’s virtue to prevent crunch-culture: Supergiant’s Hades. Whether Hades also deserved the GOTY-crown (like Polygon’s Maddy Myers does in this feature, or our own Ymir would argue) can be discussed, but one must praise the culture Supergiant tries to create within the company. In an earlier interview with Kotaku, Hades writer and designer Greg Kasavin told how much they value a respectful work enviroment, where the boundaries of the developers are taken into account (for example, no e-mails after 5 p.m.). Hades shows that games which didn’t have a period of crunch can also be in the running for big awards, so developers, take note!

Age of Empires II: snowmen-at-arms

Winter is upon us, and that means that most games have some kind of festive or winter-related content. This kind of festive content is most often reserved for MMO’s or other multiplayer games. However, Age of Empires II has joined the mix! Until the 1st of January 2021, you can unlock winter themed content such as snowmen-at-arms. A great move from a game which isn’t really known for a very active modding community or developers which pull these kind of gags. However, pretty cool right? Check out more on PCGamesN or on the Age of Empires website.

The ironic anti-war messages in Call of Duty’s Nuketown ’84

Nuketown is a well-known map from the Call of Duty series. After first premiering in Black Ops, it has now been revamped with a new jacket for Black Ops Cold War. However, there is more than meets the eye. PCGamer’s Jeremy Peel wrote a self-titled ‘unnecessarily deep analysis of a dumb multiplayer map‘. In short: the map is filled with anti-war (and especially anti-WMD) symbolism, as a lot of references are made to the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The start of the ’80’s saw a wave of anti-WMD protests all over Europe (for example the protests on 29 October 1983 in Den Haag being the biggest in the Netherlands ever with over half a milion people attending). The re-election of Thatchers anti-CND campaign in 1983 is probably also the reason why the map refers to 1984, as it is the year ‘hope is lost’. To stay with Peel’s title: a unnecessarily deep analysis indeed, but interesting nonetheless! Check it out here.

Image: Activision / PCGamer

Spelunky 1 & 2 & Heaven’s Gate coming to Nintendo Switch

Rejoice those who love archaeology games and have a Nintendo Switch, as Spelunky 1, Spelunky 2 (Nintende Life) and Heaven’s Gate (Eurogamer) are coming to the platform! Of course, Spelunky isn’t like the real deal, but it is fun nonetheless. Prepare for some good old crawling through procedurally generated caves. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait until the summer of 2021, but it’ll be worth it. As for Heaven’s Gate, the amazing adventure game of inkle Studio’s will be available from the 28th of January onwards!

Video: inkleStudios

Ancient Cities now in Early Access

Uncasual Games’ pre-historic city-builder Ancient Cities is now available in Early Access on Steam! Those who supported the development earlier might have gotten free access to the Early Access, but every one can now buy access for a (hefty) €40 price tag. However, be aware of the Early Access lable before you run towards Steam. From my (limited) playtime, I can say that it is definitely the most Early Access of any Early Access games I’ve played. Meaning: not a lot of content, not optimized and actually quite unstable. Let’s hope the future brings more for this game, as it is a very interesting and still a promising prospect!

A 18th century Temple of Solomon in 3D

This was sent to us by Eelco Nagelsmit, who teaches at the University of Groningen (RUG). He is currently working on a project which tries to recreate the Temple of Solomon in 3D. But interestingly, it is not about the one which once stood in Jerusalem (it is, but kinda isn’t), but about a 18th Century recreation of the Temple. Made by schoolmaster Christoph Semler from Halle (Germany), it was a build of 2 by 3 meters, but has since been lost. However, with the use of texts and drawings, Nagelsmit was able to recreate the recreation in a 3D model. Quite neat if I say so myself. Check it out here, read more on the project here!

Image: Eelco Nagelsmit