Checkpoint #5: Under Auto Duress

Dota Underlords, Island Living, Rise of Azshara, Harry Potter Go and an epitaph for the original Wii

E3 is over! Long live E3.

Despite enjoying total immersion in the avalanche of exciting information, I started a newsletter instead of a novel for a reason. Having seemingly written a few novels over the past few weeks, I'm happy to see that this issue has slimmed down to a more manageable size.

While developers around the world disappear from public view for a post-E3 refractory period, there's still plenty going on, and a Black Ops 4 key to give away at the end. Let's dive in.

Auto Duress

PC gaming and cross-platform titles

Valve has polished Auto Chess into a standalone game, and this week made it available for free. It's called Dota Underlords, and it took less than two hours to exceed the peak concurrent player count of Artifact, Valve's struggling digital trading card game.

The Sims 4's Island Living expansion launched this week, and early reports suggest that it's a winner, and a great chilled out experience. Some are particularly fixated on the opportunity to become a mermaid.

Rockstar has confirmed that it is bringing its long-awaited casino patch to GTA Online this summer. It'll be set in the Diamond Casino & Resort and will reportedly offer the full casino experience, from valet parking to table games.

The Cyberpunk 2077 hype is going to keep pumping for a while yet as new details emerge. CD Projekt Red has hinted that we may see expansions for the game that match the scale and scope of The Witcher 3's DLCs.

Early in the week, Mario Royale, a fan-made game that mashed up Battle Royale with Super Mario platforming, appeared on the internet. As you'd expect, Nintendo didn't waste much time in issuing an infringement notice. The game is now known as Infringio Royale, and is still available to play — albeit with different art and sound assets.

Fallout 76's Nuclear Winter Battle Royale mode's preview test phase was meant to end after a few days, but Bethesda will now leave it in place indefinitely and continue to iterate on it in public.

A new Apex Legends patch has focused on improving the game's networking, with a higher client send rate and a better server selection interface. There are more balance-oriented changes coming with season 2. Also, there are dragons now.

Meanwhile, O.G. Battle Royale Playerunknown's Battlegrounds is getting an update that adds an amphibious boatcar, ledge grabbing, and a Desert Eagle pistol.

After Bungie announced that Destiny 2 is getting cross-save, the company had to clarify that this does not apply to Stadia. Cross-save will work between PC, PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. If Google applies the same protectionist mindset to its platform that Sony had been employing until recently, I'll be surprised — but this is a worrying indicator. Bungie also had a little bit more to say about how the process of moving your Destiny 2 assets from to Steam would work.

EA's CEO says Anthem isn't over, but we're not getting any new information that gives us concrete hope for an alternative.

PC modders are using an emulated version of Breath of the Wild to create custom generations, and some are pretty impressive.

Classic Counter-Strike level has been remade in Unreal Engine 4 by artist Wiktor Öhman, and it looks gorgeous enough that we'd like to play in it now, please and thanks.

Pretty good at fighting games? Mortal Kombat 11 got a competitive mode this week, so go forth and demonstrate your superiority.

The Epic Games Store's free game of the moment is Rebel Galaxy, a space western that first came out in 2015.

Finally: a former Epic director admitted that he had tried to cancel Fortnite this week. I'll leave the reactions to this one up to you.

Split the Loot

Gaming culture and miscellanea

In a hearing focused on loot boxes, the UK Parliament put pressure on EA and Epic this week — both of which seemed unprepared for the grilling. Including this gem: "we don't call them loot boxes - we call them surprise mechanics."

We all want gaming companies to focus on solving its problem with crunch time. But if you're a Destiny 2 player, you might be cursing the sun as an unbalanced weapon continues to dominate the game — the company says it'll be letting the situation continue until the next patch in order to avoid crunch. An important reminder of the personal cost when these issues are treated like emergencies to keep our gaming experience enjoyable.

Twitch is suing those users who recently posted porn and racism to the Artifact stream page, claiming that the use of automated tools harmed its business.

Finally, because everyone loves a good EVE Online story, Kotaku's Lee Yancy looks at how challenging it can be to be a space trucker. I did this for a while back in the day, and it's a cheek-clenching job for sure.

Baptiste Is Not Seychellois

Blizzard news, rumors and reviews

If you haven't logged into Overwatch this week, you might want to do so before you miss out on this neat Baptiste skinBaptiste's Reunion Challenge is a mini-event in the same vein as the earlier D.Va and Ana events, offering sprays, a skin, and a short story. It ends on July 1.

The new Overwatch replay system dropped in the same patch, and you can get a crash course in using it from Dot Esports.

Meanwhile, the Overwatch League previewed this neat octopus-themed Zenyatta skin that'll be available for purchase soon, in celebration of fearsome orb-juggler JJoNak's season one MVP title.

World of Warcraft's next patch, Rise of Azshara, is dropping on June 25 and it's a big one — two zones, a new raid, a large dungeon and an Azerite system overhaul are just a few of the highlights. Further in the future, Blizzard is hinting that it could implement a level cap squish.

Major French publication Le Monde reports that Diablo 4 has been showcased internally to Blizzard employees.

Just Dance?

Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch news

Gears 5 will be forgoing loot boxes and season passes, with all DLC maps available freely.

Don't worry — fresh coat of paint aside, the Link's Awakening remake is going to leave most things just as they were, which is to say in a state of complete perfection.

Xbox Game Pass is getting a few new games this month. They include Resident Evil: Revelations and Rare Replay for Xbox, and Torment: Tides of Numenera and classic masterpiece Goat Simulator for PC.

Xbox head Phil Spencer says he and his team are focused on software and services, not hardware sales — a platform approach that has been delivering wins for Microsoft as it has geared up to reclaim the console war championship in the next generation. It's also focusing on a single console for that next generation, instead of two tiers of hardware as previously reported.

It's the end of an era. Well, it was the end of this era quite some time ago, and we're just now getting the eulogy: Just Dance 2020 will be the last Wii game, ever.

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick seems to have some whacky priorities. He put his foot in it — at least as far as gamers are concerned — with a few statements this week: he thinks console backwards compatibility is a waste of time, and he doesn't understand why game developers could possibly want to unionise despite overseeing studios that are infamous for their reliance on excessive crunch.

Speaking of said studios, Read Dead Online got new game modes in an update last month and the reviews are coming in: Sport of Kings feels like the wild west and is worth your time.

Luigi's Mansion 3 producers promise that this title will have better bosses and more numerous puzzles, in response to widespread feedback on Luigi's Mansion 2.

Harry Potter Go

Mobile gaming news

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, informally known as Harry Potter Golaunched on iOS and Android this weekEarly impressions indicate that there's a lot of promise here for fans of the genre, though others point out that it is bloated and slow (and, frankly, they're not wrong — it's not the snappiest experience, even on an XS Max, though a lot of that seems to be down to excessive animation durations rather than performance). If you're having trouble getting started, IGN has a guide to your first hours with the game.

Meanwhile, we're getting some closer previews of Minecraft Earth, the mobile AR game that kindly lets you and your friends build on the household surfaces you already own.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 — We Have a Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered our Black Ops 4 draw by subscribing this week! The augurs (in fact, a random number generator I googled) have selected a winner, and that's you, Steven S. I'd tell you to check your email, but if you're reading this…

We're planning our next giveaway and this one won't be limited to new subscribers. Stay tuned for more details, as it’ll be our biggest yet.

That’s it for this edition.

Thanks for reading Checkpoint. If you enjoyed reading, please let your gamer friends know about it — you’ll be helping me keep this newsletter going. And don’t forget to follow us on social media to receive interesting gaming updates throughout the week:

Thanks for your support. See you next time,

- Flob